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AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile confirm using Carrier IQ, say it complies with privacy policies

Posted: , by Victor H.

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AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile confirm using Carrier IQ, say it complies with privacy policies
The Carrier IQ scandal is quickly growing out of proportion with all parties involved with the company trying to distance themselves as quickly as possible, and the company on the other hand pointing a finger at carriers. Now, both parties have spoken and all major US carriers except for Verizon have confirmed that they are using the controversial application. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all required the app to be installed on handsets, but they cite slightly different reasons for that.

On one hand, AT&T and Sprint say that they use Carrier IQ’s app only to improve network performance. HTC and Samsung acknowledged that they were installing the app on their handsets but with the sole reason of carrier requests. The nation’s second biggest carrier, AT&T, issued a response which could be seen as somewhat nervous saying that the software has only been used in accordance with the company’s privacy policy, but not clarifying whether all AT&T handsets have it. "We're really not going to offer more detail than what's in the statement," Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations at AT&T, said. 

Sprint was more willing to clear things up and Spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge-Walsh detailed how the carrier uses Carrier IQ: 

"We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool. The information collected is not sold and we don't provide a direct feed of this data to anyone outside of Sprint." Again, this could reportedly be found in the tiny print of Sprint’s privacy policy.

T-Mobile, on the other hand, claims that it’s using the software to troubleshoot performance issues for the device or network. "T-Mobile does not use this diagnostic tool to obtain the content of text, email or voice messages, or the specific destinations of a customers' internet activity, nor is the tool used for marketing purposes," the carrier insisted.

The catch about Carrier IQ’s app is that it’s hard to detect and also hard to remove. At the same time, it allows carriers to easily collect sensitive data including your keystrokes, SMS messages and visited websites. Interestingly, this happens even in airplane mode when the phone is not connected to the network. Carrier IQ has tried to deny reality and still defends the position that it’s app doesn’t do all of that, but is rather used only so that carriers can detect dropped calls and battery drain.

On the Carrier IQ side of things, AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski contacted executives at Carrier IQ, who confirmed that it’s all about network providers. They were very specific distancing themselves when speaking about who makes the rules about the gathered information:

“It’s the operator that determines what data is collected. They make that decision based on their privacy standards and their agreement with their users, and we implement it,” Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart said. “We capture only the data they specify, and provide it to them. We don’t capture more than that,” he stressed. 

Below, you’ll find a fresh press release from Carrier IQ, finally being a bit more elaborate about the use of its software. After that, follows a video by the developer Trevor Eckhart who found out about the issue, showing what the software is capable of doing on his HTC EVO 3D. What do you make out of the Carrier IQ's scandal, are you worried about your privacy?


Press Release


18 Comments
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posted on 02 Dec 2011, 04:08 7

1. M2Iceman (Posts: 9; Member since: 04 Nov 2011)


We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool.

Ok, so what kinda tool are you using?? What a joke and they know it. The carriers got caught and now they are back peddling. Good job Trevor, keep up the good work and thanks for allowing the cooks to take it out of the ROMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 11:03 2

8. dahaka17 (Posts: 61; Member since: 08 Jun 2010)


iceman.. i work for sprint and trust me, we cant look at any of that info... doesnt matter who has what court order the most they can tell is who a msg was sent to (in regards to text messages) we have a tool that allows us to check drop call info and stuff like that, which would be my guess what its used for but we cant view and content...( doesnt matter who request the info either its just not there)...

posted on 03 Dec 2011, 07:38

17. M2Iceman (Posts: 9; Member since: 04 Nov 2011)


Dahaka, The point I was making is this. CIQ transmits info regardless to someone. If the code is written to be able to perform its function, there is another code somewhere to read it. I wouldnt expect a Sprint employee at the store or even a manager to have the equipment to read what is being sent. My point is this, this company has the code and the info is being sent out without people knowing. Regardless of whether or not its encrypted, to which TrevE shows its not, but the info is of everything you do on your phone. In LE to gain that kind of info you need a warrant because of the 4th Amendment!! Hello!!! The courts have ruled any content on a cell phone is subject to a warrant. So how is it that the companies can hide behind, CIQ doesnt receive, store or handle it, Oh really then who does? If the info is being sent just over WiFi in the video, where is it going? I know more of the information is trade secret of CIQ and the companies that use its products but the fact that the information is being sent without the users knowledge and there is apparently no safeguards in sending the info is scary and against the law. If Sprint and the other carriers wanna PR spin this and say , Its to better assist with cell service. Yeah right!!!!! How is it when I call Sprint and give them my info, I have to explain even to the tech people whats wrong with my phone when clearly most in customer service have no idea whats going on. If this information is used to better understand whats happening on my phone they should know exactly whats wrong with my Epic GS2ET4G and the fact that it gets s**tty reception. But yet for weeks now I have been told I dont know what Im talking about. All these companies can spin it anyway they want and clearly they are. What is being done is a wiretap issue plain and simple. I dont blame CIQ for making the software, I blame the companies that decide to use it.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 04:20 5

2. Leo_MC (Posts: 478; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


So, what if I don't want to send you that kind of information for free?
I pay for your mobile services, why shouldn't you pay for me to allow you to understand my experience as a customer?!

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 12:27

10. corporateJP (Posts: 1520; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)


^100% right.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 04:47 2

3. speckledapple (Posts: 877; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)


This is just the beginning of the end of bloat ware especially bloat ware you cannot even see.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 07:18 2

4. km_1964 (Posts: 3; Member since: 30 Nov 2011)


shame shame... i do remember a guy in sprintusers.com that keep posting about carrier iq and that was since last year..

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 08:38 2

5. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


wtf. now Carriers got caught and are now trying to save their ass. and i agree with Leo why should i tell them my experience for free ? if thats really the case.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 09:27 1

6. rob5150 (Posts: 103; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)


what I think all the big guys are missing... Is in the video, Trevor does not agree to any of the sending info back. So, where did he agree to cellular iq or anything else to run besides stock android

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 09:43 1

7. fervid (Posts: 173; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


I lucked out being Grandfathered in on ATT Unlimited. Had I not been I'd be pretty ticked that they are using my data plan to transmit this stuff for their benefit. I do have one other phone on my plan though not on unlimited, so I am pretty aggravated about it...especially since it uses my WiFi 80% of the time that isn't ATT. I may use this as a chance to move to Verizon if they keep this up.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 12:26

9. corporateJP (Posts: 1520; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)


Boy, there are some real pieces of s*it over at AT&T, especially their "PR" people.

I'm losing respect more every day for carriers.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 13:26

11. Cwebb (Posts: 501; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


Anybody wanna tell me why the Evo 3d keeps gettjng brought up? Since I have it its starting to confuse me, because I can't figure out why

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 13:40

12. wumberpeb (Posts: 414; Member since: 14 Mar 2011)


Would you rather they bring up the Samsung Moment?

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 13:41

13. Sniggly (Posts: 6697; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


It was the phone TrevE used to demonstrate the existence of CarrierIQ. It's on pretty much every phone on Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile though.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 15:49

14. GeekMovement (Posts: 1499; Member since: 09 Sep 2011)


Who cares we can survive without Carrier IQ that co is just crap and can go out of business for all i care.

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 16:13 1

15. DannyBoy81 (Posts: 1; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


So you basically have carriers caught red-handed that are offering excuses...

Carriers can completely monitor and troubleshoot network perfomance without installing hidden software on customers' devices.

Isn't it interesting that the industry leader in network performance is the only major US carrier that doesn't use Carrier IQ?

posted on 02 Dec 2011, 16:20 1

16. rcrider4 (Posts: 118; Member since: 14 Nov 2011)


They don't use CIQ, but they more than likely use something similar. They won't answer the question of "Do you use something similar?", only that they don't have CIQ.

posted on 03 Dec 2011, 12:34

18. roscuthiii (Posts: 1785; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)


This is why you shouldn't buy a carrier subsidized phone. It's basically spelled out in the fine print of every contract. They say they' are going to collect information on you. They give you the option to not share it BUT still bear the disclaimer they're going to collect it anyway. And, you aren't giving away that information for free, why do think unlocked phones cost upwards of $500-600 while the carrier ones only cost $200-300?

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