UPDATED 09:48 EDT / DECEMBER 13 2011

Conspiracy Theories Prevail: Is Carrier IQ Working With The FBI?

Carrier IQ, the provider of Mobile Service Intelligence Solutions for the whole of the wireless industry, has been under fire for weeks now because of the controversial blog post and video that Trevor Eckhart published.  Eckhart showed that Carrier IQ has been keeping track of keystrokes and data sent and received on people’s mobile devices, causing an industry-wide uproar with privacy advocates and consumers alike.

Investigating Carrier IQ

To investigate, MuckRock sent a  Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for “manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ” but lo and behold, the request was denied.

The FBI responded to MuckRock’s request with this:

“The material you’ve requested is located in an investigative file which is exempt from disclosure…”
“… records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that production of such law enforcement records or information . . . could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”

And the plot thickens.  MuckRock responded to request denial with this:

“What is still unclear is whether the FBI used Carrier IQ’s software in its own investigations, whether it is currently investigating Carrier IQ, or whether it is some combination of both – not unlikely given the recent uproar over the practice coupled with the U.S. intelligence communities reliance on third-party vendors. The response would seem to indicate at least the former, since the request was specifically for documents related directly to accessing and analyzing Carrier IQ data.”

MuckRock stated that they would apply for an appeal to get some answers.
In ZDNet’s point of view, the FBI denied the request because of three possible reasons:

  1. The G Men already use information collected by Carrier IQ (an activity which Carrier IQ itself vigorously denies any involvement in)
  2. The Feds realize that there might be a treasure trove of information here, and are planning to make use of it
  3. Carrier IQ itself is under investigation

Conspiracy Theories

I just know conspiracy theorists are going to love this, so brace yourselves for more Carrier IQ controversies.

But of course, it wouldn’t be news if we just heard only one side of the story, so it’s only fair that we hear what Carrier IQ has to say about the controversy.  In an exclusive interview with AllThingssD, Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart, and VP of marketing Andrew Coward made a point to clarify all allegations against them.

Lenhart and Coward stated that they will be publishing a third official statement regarding the matter, as they learned that transparency is pertinent at this point.  Also, they want to clarify and defend themselves, stating that much of what Eckhart published and showed on his video were erroneous.  The document that they will be publishing is a collaboration between CIQ and carrier partners in an effort to ease the minds of consumers.

When asked about the Eckhart’s video showing that data were indeed logged, Coward responded, “What he was looking at there was an Android log file. And to be blunt, there was information there that shouldn’t have been. In order for Carrier IQ to get information off a device, we work with the manufacturers to deliver that information through an API. That information shouldn’t show up in an Android log file. We don’t read from Android log files; we don’t see Android log files. That info just shouldn’t be there. And, ultimately, what goes in that log file is up to the manufacturer.”

So to clarify, Coward stated that those were Android log files, and at no point in the video was there any proof that CIQ had any access to the logged file or even proof that they even received it.

So is this whole CIQ controversy actually an Android controversy?  Hmm…

But this might be the most important question in light of the FBI issue, “You say you are not permitted to analyze, resell or reuse any of the information gathered for your own purposes, or to pass it to any third party, unless required by law. Do you know if law enforcement uses Carrier IQ data, and in what manner?”

To which Lenhart responded, “We have been approached by law enforcement about using our technology, and every time it’s happened, we’ve determined that that’s not an appropriate use of it. A lot of data that we capture is historical, so if you really want to find out where somebody is and what they’re doing, our technology isn’t going to give you that. Remember, this is diagnostic data. And we don’t share it with anyone.”

To read the whole interview, click here.  A copy of CIQ’s document can also be found on the link.

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