Franken questions smartphone logging software

WASHINGTON – After security researchers discovered software installed on many popular smartphone models that allegedly can record and transmit personal user information, DFL Sen. Al Franken has called on Carrier IQ, the company behind the software, to provide details.

The company says its software, which is reportedly found on many Android, Blackberry and Nokia smartphones, is used by phone carriers to track information about the functioning of their cellphone networks. But earlier this week, Trevor Eckhart, a security researcher, released a video demonstrating that Carrier IQ’s software could send sensitive information such as the contents of emails and text messages to third parties.

“The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and possibly transmitted is deeply troubling,” said Franken in a written statement. “This news underscores the need for Congress to act swiftly to protect the location information and private, sensitive information of consumers.”

Franken, who chairs a Senate subcommittee that deals with digital privacy issues, sent Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart a letter on Wednesday with a list of detailed questions about the software’s capabilities. Franken requested a response by Dec. 14.

Since arriving in the Senate in 2009, Franken has made digital privacy a pet issue. In September, Franken and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons scored a victory over the in-car system OnStar after reports emerged that OnStar was tracking customers’ vehicle location and considering selling the information to third parties.

  • FatStan

    “There ought to be a Law!” Sorry Franken, there already is a law. Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 that forbid acquiring the contents of communications without the users’ consent.

    The last thing we need are more laws to wade through.

    Nice chest thumping though…

  • sgreco

    should we file our lawsuit sindividually or in class action suits? We’re not about to let these corporations get away with this.

  • Roland

    Instead of asking CarrierIQ, why not ask the US Carriers themselves that are willingly, and not openly, installing this software on millions of phones?

    Where in the Terms & Conditions do you read about this, when you sign up with a Carrier? Is it that very broad statement somewhere that says [paraphrasing here] ‘oh, we’re monitoring usage to improve your experience?’

    Fight this at the source – the carriers that install this, knowing they’re skirting existing laws, or maybe even ignoring them.

  • James W

    Because the most logical place to start asking questions is with the software developer itself, since they know the internals of what this program does. Then you move to the carriers. Then to the manufacturers — did HTC, Nokia and others know that they were installing snooping technology on their phones. If so, why didn’t they speak out?

  • glen

    Not trying to be paranoid, but this sounds like something that Homeland Security may have mandated for ‘persons of interest’

  • Roland

    With regards to James W’s reply — so you’re actually believing that the Verizons, AT&Ts, T-Mobiles will allow any software that they commissioned to run freely on their handsets, without them scrutinizing every bit and byte of the functionality?

    Huh…