Carrier IQ Controversy Heats Up As New Lawsuit Filed

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Another class-action lawsuit has been filed over the Carrier IQ scandal that broke last week. The suit, filed in the US District Court in Delaware, is the third suit to be filed in the controversy over the alleged spyware installed on a wide array of mobile devices.

The first two suits were filed late last week, shortly after the story broke. This third suit was filed on behalf of four plaintiffs, and names as defendants Carrier IQ, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, HTC, Apple, Samsung, and Motorola. The complaint (PDF) was filed by Sianni & Straite (press release), a Delaware-based law firm specializing in corporate law and investor protection. The suit accuses Carrier IQ, et al. of multiple violations of the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communication Act, and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Though the suit requests compensatory and statutory damages be awarded the plaintiffs, it leaves the amounts up to the determination of the court.

The Carrier IQ scandal broke last week when Android developer Trevor Eckhart posted a YouTube video in which he demonstrated the level of access the Carrier IQ software, which he called a rootkit, had to users’ personal information. Eckhart demonstrated that the software, which is hidden on most devices, has access to keystroke data, location information, web traffic, and SMS traffic to and from users’ mobile phones. Though he initially found it only on Android phones, it has since been discovered on a wide variety of devices across carriers, including Apple’s iPhone.

After the scandal broke various carriers and manufacturers released a flurry of statements asserting that their use of the software was strictly limited to gathering information on device performance, and that none of the other data accessible to the program was collected. As more data emerged, it became clear that the carriers were primarily responsible for the presence of the software on the phones. Of all the carriers and manufacturers that were found to use the software, Apple came the closest to escaping unscathed, since the software was only active on iPhones in diagnostic mode, and since a simple change in device settings allowed users to opt out of all diagnostic data collection.

UPDATE: While preparing this article I sent an email to David Straite, one of the lawyers who filed the suit. Shortly after posting it I received a response from his partner, Ralph Sianni. Here's what Mr. Sianni had to say

The issues raised in this lawsuit are extremely important. If the media reports about the Carrier IQ software are accurate, consumers are subject to having their personal information recorded or transmitted without their knowledge or consent. Everyone knows that communications technology has exploded in recent years. Now consumers are stepping up and asking courts to hold companies accountable when they collect personal information without their consent.

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