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Carrier IQ Releases Data as FBI Denies FOIA Request

December 13, 2011

The FBI has denied a request for more details about how the agency might be using Carrier IQ, according to a blogger who filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for data.

Carrier IQ, meanwhile, released a lengthy FAQ today in which it explained its technology and once again denied logging keystrokes or improperly collecting user data.

For those who need a refresher, Carrier IQ made headlines in recent weeks after a researcher, Trevor Eckhart, suggested that the technology is secretly embedded on many popular phones and can gather personal data about users. Carrier IQ said its technology is used for diagnostic purposes and denied logging keystrokes or being able to read the content of emails, text messages, or Web sites.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the company, Michael Morisy of Muckrock News filed a FOIA request for "manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ." But on Dec. 7, the FBI denied that request, arguing that the records in question were related to "a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding," and their release might "interfere with the enforcement proceedings."

When asked about the FBI, a Carrier IQ spokeswoman said the company "has never provided any data to the FBI."

"If approached by a law enforcement agency, we would refer them to the network operators because the diagnostic data collected belongs to them and not Carrier IQ," she continued. "Carrier IQ's data is not designed to address the special needs of law enforcement. The diagnostic data that we capture is mostly historical and won't reveal where somebody is and what they are doing on a real-time basis."

The Next Web was more skeptical about the FBI's use of Carrier IQ. Quoting attorney and contributor Jeff Cormier, the blog pointed to the fact that Congress has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the Carrier IQ issue. "That is the likely reason why information is being withheld," Cormier said. "It's completely inaccurate to state there is an 'ongoing investigation.'"

Carrier IQ Responds
Separate from the FBI issue, Carrier IQ on Tuesday released a 19-page document dubbed "Understanding Carrier IQ," which delves into the company's technology.

Among the issues addressed are the video produced by Eckhart, which showed an Android-based HTC device accessing private details from a user's phone, including Google search terms. Carrier IQ said today that the data was displayed because of software settings unrelated to Carrier IQ.

"Our investigation of Trevor Eckhart's video indicates that location, key presses, SMS and other information appears in log files as a result of debug messages from pre-production handset manufacturer software," Carrier IQ said. "Specifically it appears that the handset manufacturer software's debug capabilities remained 'switched on' in devices sold to consumers."

Carrier IQ software, known as an IQ Agent, "does not use the Android log files to acquire or output metrics," the company said.

Carrier IQ said it is working with handset manufacturers to get them to turn off debug messages with personal data "to prevent them from being written into log files."

The company did, however, admit to a bug that allowed for the collection of radio messages in which text messages were embedded. Carrier IQ said these messages "were not decoded or made available in human readable form to Carrier IQ, its customers or any third party."

"Upon discovering the bug, Carrier IQ and its customers took immediate steps to remedy the bug and Carrier IQ customers are no longer uploading such data," the company said.

To collect its data, meanwhile, Carrier IQ said information is transmitted on a regular schedule, but there is a specific, numeric key code that can be punched into a phone to trigger data collection.

"Carrier IQ has never intentionally captured or transmitted keystrokes and is not aware of any circumstances where this has occurred," the company said. "Carrier IQ is not a keylogger and no customer has asked Carrier IQ to capture key strokes."




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