The Carrier IQ scandal that we reported on earlier today continues to grow, as the controversial tracking software is discovered on more devices, and manufacturers and operators begin to clarify where they stand on its usage.
Carrier IQ is a sophisticated piece of software that is made available by a private company to device manufacturers and mobile network operators; the company’s own figures indicate that it is now installed on over 140 million devices. Software developer Trevor Eckhart revealed the extent to which the software apparently tracks user data such as numbers dialed, the content of web searches and even keystroke logging – which it then sends back to Carrier IQ servers.
Since Eckhart’s revelations, it has since emerged that Carrier IQ software has been discovered on Apple’s iOS devices too. iPhone jailbreaker Grant Paul (@chpwn) tweeted confirmation that devices with iOS 3.1 included Carrier IQ:
A couple of hours later, he also confirmed that Carrier IQ can be found on iOS 5 too, although under a different reference:
He has since published a blog post explaining in great detail everything that he has uncovered about the way that Carrier IQ is implemented on iOS devices. Part of his post suggests that the extent to which the CIQ software logs and transmits data from iOS may not be as comprehensive as the CIQ implementation on Android. Crucially, Carrier IQ on iOS seems to be switched off by default; it only starts harvesting and transmitting data when the device is in Diagnostic Mode.
Interestingly, Grant Paul also confirms the news that, for now at least, Windows Phone appears to be the only mobile OS without Carrier IQ installed.
Likely anticipating considerable backlash from users, as word of the scandal spreads, the first clarifications are beginning to emerge from networks and OEMs about where they stand on the CIQ debacle. The Verge reports that Jeffrey Nelson, from Verizon Wireless, has reiterated an earlier statement – from two weeks ago, before the controversy flared up – that Verizon does not use Carrier IQ software on any of its handsets. At time of writing, Verizon remains the only US network operator to have issued such a clarification.
Nokia has also clarified its stance on the controversial software. A Nokia spokesperson told SlashGear that “Carrier IQ does not ship products for any Nokia devices”, describing reports of the software being found on Nokia handsets as “inaccurate”.
Interestingly, it appears that flagship Android devices – those produced in direct partnership with Google to launch new Android versions – do not contain the CIQ software at all. The Verge has heard from ‘an extremely reliable source’ that the Google Nexus One, Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and first-generation Motorola Xoom tablet are completely free of Carrier IQ.
So, for now, it seems that your best bet to avoid this whole wretched Carrier IQ fiasco is to buy a flagship Android handset, or a Windows Phone. If you must buy an iDevice, keep it out of Diagnostic Mode at all costs.
UPDATE 1: Speaking with TechRadar, Telefónica O2 stated it "doesn't collect any information via Carrier IQ. This is a question for the handset suppliers." When asked if they use any similar software on their phones, O2 stated that "the handset manufacturers might install it so that they can collect diagnostic data, but if they do, it's not on our behalf, and we don't have access to any of the data that may be collected."
France Telecom, parent company of Europe's Orange network, told PaidContent.org that while it could not rule out Carrier IQ being installed on phones used on its network, 'Orange does not validate it, or any diagnostic services similar to it, so it and other related services do not work'.
The Canadian carrier Rogers has also tweeted that Carrier IQ is not used on any devices sold through its network.
UPDATE 2: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore has now confirmed that Windows Phones are free from the scourge of Carrier IQ software.
UPDATE 3: The Verge has received word from a few other companies about their involvement with Carrier IQ. First up is HTC - they claim to have no direct relationship with Carrier IQ, but that the software is "required on devices by a number of US carriers", adding that they're "investigating the option to allow consumers to opt-out of data collection by Carrier IQ".
Apple has also issued a statement, explaining that they "stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5 in most of our products, and will remove it completely in a future software update." They also emphasise the fact that customers "must actively opt-in to share information" that is sent back to Apple for diagnostic purposes, and that in any event, these data are "sent in an anonymous and encrypted form". Apple also explicitly denies recording or logging "keystrokes, messages or any other personal information for diagnostic data and have no plans to ever do so."
Sprint, on the other hand, has come clean and openly admitted to using Carrier IQ "to analyze our network performance and identify where we should be improving service"; in fact, Sprint goes further than this, in stating that "Carrier IQ is an integral part of the Sprint service". They add that they "collect enough information to understand the customer experience on our network... but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc. using this tool."