Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) has disabled Carrier IQ's controversial mobile analytics measurement tool across all devices on its network. "We have weighed customer concerns, and we have disabled use of the tool so that diagnostic information and data is no longer being collected," Sprint said in an email to Mobile Burn. "We are further evaluating options regarding this diagnostic software as well as Sprint's diagnostic needs."
According to allegations by security researcher Trevor Eckhart, the Carrier IQ app secretly records user behaviors across more than 140 million mobile handsets. Carrier IQ denies any wrongdoing, maintaining that its services count and measure operational information and do not record keystrokes or provide tracking tools. Sprint recently stated that Carrier IQ software is installed on 26 million phones running on its network, although only 1.3 million handsets actively reported data at any given time.
Sprint reiterated that it did not use Carrier IQ software to analyze the content of text messages, emails, photos and other content information stored on subscribers' phones. The operator also clarified that it did not leverage Carrier IQ data for any targeted advertising or subscriber profiling efforts, adding it relied on the analytics solution solely to identify network deficiencies and improve services.
Sprint, along with rival AT&T (NYS: T) Mobility and device manufacturers Samsung Electronics and HTC, recently responded to questions about Carrier IQ implementation posed by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). "I appreciate the responses I received, but I'm still very troubled by what's going on," Franken said in a statement. "People have a fundamental right to control their private information. After reading the companies' responses, I'm still concerned that this right is not being respected. The average user of any device equipped with Carrier IQ software has no way of knowing that this software is running, what information it is getting, and who it is giving it to -- and that's a problem ... So there are still many questions to be answered here and things that need to be fixed."
Last week, Carrier IQ denied reports that it is the target of a Federal Trade Commission investigation but confirmed that executives met Wednesday with FTC and Federal Communications Commission officials. "Although Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the practices of Carrier IQ, we are not aware of an official investigation into Carrier IQ at this time," the firm said in a statement. The Washington Post maintains the FTC inquiry was confirmed by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity -- an FTC spokesperson said the agency could neither confirm nor deny whether it is probing Carrier IQ's practices.
Carrier IQ faces lawsuits in multiple U.S. states. A lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif. claims the firm "is involved in installing spyware on mobile phones and using that hidden software to siphon off private consumer data without consumer consent." The suit alleges Carrier IQ is in violation of various federal and state laws, including the California Anti-Spyware Statute and the right to privacy provision of the California Constitution.
A separate suit filed in the same court targets Carrier IQ as well as HTC and Samsung, also alleging violations of the Federal Wiretap Act and California's Unfair Business Practice Act. The suit claims that Carrier IQ does in fact record keystrokes and the content of messages and could transmit that information to third parties. Lawsuits also were filed in Chicago and St. Louis.
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