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Carrier IQ disputes FBI connection

Carrier IQ has issued a long report on its security practices, just as the FBI shoots down a related FOIA request. Will this new defense be enough to help Carrier IQ? 

By Matthew Shaer / December 13, 2011

Carrier IQ is under fire. Here, users try out an HTC handset at an event in Taipei. HTC is one of the manufacturers that reportedly uses Carrier IQ software.

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It has not been an easy few weeks for Carrier IQ, a California software firm. In late November, Android developer Trevor Eckhart published a video, alleging that Carrier IQ – which services Sprint, RIM, and HTC, among others – was surreptitiously logging the keystrokes of mobile phone users.

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Carrier IQ was pelted with complaints and queries, from ordinary users and from US senators

Apple reps said they would banish Carrier IQ software from its devices completely.

Sprint and AT&T sought to distance themselves from Carrier IQ.

Most recently, a tech reporter filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, inquiring as to whether any information had passed between Carrier IQ and the FBI. The FBI rejected the request. Carrier IQ says it would not give information to a government agency.

Carrier IQ reps, for their part, admitted that company software had the ability to record a "treasure trove" of information, but denied the allegations that it logged every keystroke entered by users. Now, the embattled company has taken an even firmer stand, issuing a 19-page report entitled "Understanding Carrier IQ Technology."

"Our investigation of Trevor Eckhart's video indicates that location, key presses, SMS and other information appears in log files as a result of debug messages from pre-production handset manufacturer software," the Carrier IQ team writes in the document. "Specifically it appears that the handset manufacturer software's debug capabilities remained 'switched on' in devices sold to consumers."

Carrier IQ maintains that manufacturers should be flipping that same switch to "off."

PC World has a more extensive analysis of the report, which is worth reading in full. In the meantime, you can expect Carrier IQ brass to continue attempting to shore up support. Mostly recently, Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart and marketing VP Andrew Coward spoke to John Paczkowski of All Things D

"We’re a diagnostic software company. We love diagnostic information. We are not interested in content," Lenhart told All Things D this week. "And that’s where we draw the line. We don’t want content, and we don’t have the ability to capture it. Remember, the information that’s captured off a user’s device is determined by the carrier, according to their privacy agreement."

So will the full-court media press help? Well, as Stan Schroeder notes over at Mashable, "this latest report is far too complex to help end users understand whether Carrier IQ is 'evil.' It will, however, help Carrier IQ prepare to face a class-action lawsuit and/or an FTC probe, and it might generate some interesting commentary from experts in the following days."

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