Senator Al Franken Challenges Carrier IQ


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Privacy in relation to mobile technology is a touchy subject. Whether it's Apple's location data blow up or the latest controversy involving Carrier IQ and its hidden mobile device rootkit, issues of security still loom over the entire industry.

To give you a better idea, when the FCC announced its net neutrality requirements, some Internet watchdog groups made note of the lack of protection concerning the mobile web. These issues have previously caught the eye of Senator Al Franken, long a proponent of mobile device user and their privacy. So it was no surprise when Senator Franken reacted to the Carrier IQ controversy.

Over at his official site, Franken's staff posted an in depth reaction to Carrier IQ, along with an official letter written to the Carrier IQ CEO, Larry Lenhart, asking to stop their tracking practices. There's also an official quote from the Senator, as he furthers his position as mobile privacy champion:

“Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information,” said Sen. Franken. “The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and possibly transmitted is deeply troubling. This news underscores the need for Congress to act swiftly to protect the location information and private, sensitive information of consumers. But right now, Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer.”

Franken's support for the PIPA/SOPA movement aside, at least his priorities are straight in relation to location privacy, a topic that is a long way from being resolved.

The fact that Carrier IQ exists and is installed by service providers proves just how unregulated the mobile industry really is. Furthermore, the fact that AT&T and Sprint would even think attaching that kind of software to products intended for consumers is prudent and/or ethical shows the need for some kind of standards and limitations when it comes to mobile devices. It's pretty obvious a great deal of this type of data collection is for marketing purposes, but the question is, should these companies even be allowed to track their customers in such a manner?

At least one member of the United States government doesn't think so. In his letter to the Carrier IQ CEO -- it would've been nice if Senator Franken would've included the service providers as well -- asked the following questions:

(1) Does Carrier IQ software log users’ location?

(2) What other data does Carrier IQ software log? Does it log:

a. The telephone numbers users dial?
b. The telephone numbers of individuals calling a user?
c. The contents of the text messages users receive?
d. The contents of the text messages users send?
e. The contents of the emails they receive?
f. The contents of the emails users send?
g. The URLs of the websites that users visit?
h. The contents of users’ online search queries?
i. The names or contact information from users’ address books?
j. Any other keystroke data?

(3) What if any of this data is transmitted off of a users’ phone? When? In what form?

(4) Is that data transmitted to Carrier IQ? Is it transmitted to smartphone manufacturers, operating system providers, or carriers? Is it transmitted to any other third parties?

(5) If Carrier IQ receives this data, does it subsequently share it with third parties? With whom does it share this data? What data is shared?

(6) Will Carrier IQ allow users to stop any logging and transmission of this data?

(7) How long does Carrier IQ store this data?

(8) Has Carrier IQ disclosed this data to federal or state law enforcement?

(9) How does Carrier IQ protect this data against hackers and other security threats?

(10) Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, including the federal wiretap statute (18 U.S.C. § 2511 et seq.), the pen register statute (18 USC § 3121 et seq.), and the Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.)?

(11) Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030)? Why?

Too bad location data and the related privacy issues don't have the same kind of in-house support things like SOPA and PIPA do.