Carrier IQ is back in the news today with reports that Sprint and HTC are planning to remove the software from their phones. Firmware updates will begin rolling out this month that will remove the software from Sprint’s Android-based phones. A public statement from HTC confirms that they are “working with Spring to provide maintenance releases that will remove Carrier IQ and provide security enhancements and bug fixes.”
The Carrier IQ scandal broke in early December following a YouTube video by Android app developer Trevor Eckhard purported to show Carrier IQ’s software - which he called a “rootkit” - accessing a wide variety data on an Android phone. His demonstration showed the software intercepting web traffic, location data, keystrokes, and even SMS messages. Carrier IQ insisted that they had no interest in users’ personal data, and that their software was nothing more than a diagnostic tool for carriers to collect data on handset and network performance.
The scandal blossomed into a full-blown ordeal as the software was discovered on Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile phones. The scandal spawned several lawsuits and drew the attention of Al Franken, the FTC, and the FCC. As more information became available and cooler heads began to prevail, it began to look more and more likely that Carrier IQ’s protestations of innocence were right, and that their software really was simply a tool for diagnosing network and handset performance. Which means that in all likelihood Sprint and HTC are removing Carrier IQ from their handsets in order to replace it with something else, since they need the kind of data Carrier IQ likely gathered.