all sorts of evil

We're all getting tired of the whole Carrier IQ mess.  Analytics are necessary evil, but in this case done in a totally bullshit way, with little or no regard to how the consumer might feel about it.  No wonder it caused a huge uproar, which has now found its way to Washington.  Federal lawmakers have executives from Carrier IQ in front of them today, hammering them about how the software works, why it's needed, and how bad this is for you and I.  According to Mira Woods from Carrier IQ marketing communications, Carrier IQ has been completely transparent and has nothing to hide.  She also confirmed that Carrier IQ chief executive Larry Lenhart and the company’s senior vice president for marketing Andrew Coward met with regulators today to the Washington Post.  The FTC and FCC are investigating after being asked by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) as a possible unfair or deceptive act or practice.  Yes, a bunch of people who may or may not really care about you and I are putting on a good show during an election year.  Hallelujah!

But that's all a load of crapola.  Where are the execs from the Big 4 U.S. carriers that hired Carrier IQ, and why aren't they sweating it out in front of some elected people or FTC bigwigs?  Yes, I said all four -- Verizon may not use Carrier IQ, but they collect the same exact information somehow.  

This whole campaign against a small company from Silicon Valley that writes software for American cellular carriers is a lynch mob going after the wrong people.  The folks you pay every month are the real culprits here, and were just looking for an easy way to harvest information out of you.  They found someone smart enough to write it and went all-in.  When Carrier IQ gets driven out of business, and the bids go out for someone else to write the same style software, there will be plenty of takers.  Suits from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon need to be held accountable for this one folks, because they aren't going to stop until they are forced to -- even if that means contracting another company to do their dirty work.

More: Washington Post


Reader comments

Carrier IQ being grilled by FTC, but who's asking questions of the carriers?


Yes, this is like shooting the messenger in a way. Carrier IQ makes a product that they tailor to how the carriers want it used. Without the carriers asking for it this wouldn't be on anyone's phone.

Be that as it may, running these guys out of business puts the carries on notice that they are next, and nobody is going to enter this business without insisting on including an end-user opt-out (despite what Jerry thinks) knowing they will get their butts dragged before the federal regulators.

Caught in a drive by shooting, perhaps. But hang out with thugs and you get what you deserve.

Analytics are NOT a necessary evil. <-- Jerry: Stop making excuses.

Almost NONE of the stuff CarrirIQ collects is needed on a routine basis. The carriers have what they need in their billing systems (which never misses anything billable). What URLs people look at is not something that needs to be collected.

There is an end user opt-out, but nobody likes it.  Tell them to piss off and spend your money on a device with the source code readily available.  All this is presented to the consumer both in the contract they sign, and the phone they activate.  If I can opt-out, so can everyone else.

Carrier IQ can only collect data via an API that they are given.  It's the carrier and OEM that decide what's made available through that API when the phone's software is built.  Next we'll be calling for the heads of the folks who coded notepad, because it's a tool that can be used to read the logs.

I want people to be pissed off.  I just want them pissed off at the right (read responsible) party.  Carrier IQ (no offense meant to the developers) is a nobody, and a very easy to replace link in the chain.  They just make a product that can be abused -- much like Anheuser-Busch or Winchester Repeating Arms does.

@Jerry, do we REALLY know that they carriers went to them? Or could this be a case where the company develops a product they see a market for and then shopped it to the carriers. That seems MUCH more the case here giving that 3 of the carriers use it, by that I mean if only one carrier had wanted this service they would probably have exclusivity with that developer so that only that carrier gets the information where their competition carriers do not. That seems MUCH more the case....

I do agree with you that the carriers need to be included in this "lynch mob", but just because CarrierIQ is providing what the carriers want doesn't exclude them. They produced a product that is enabled without knowledge of us the consumer. They know full well what can be gathered and in my opinion they are not telling the whole truth. The carriers need to let consumers know about any data collections being done and give us the right to opt out. Just glad that my phone is rooted. :)

One cannot blame the ammunition manufacturers for producing ammo. Its upto the person using it how they want to use it - for terrorism or to protect their country. Similarly, Carrier IQ is a software provider that was assigned a task to write software that helps carriers understand their network issues and *user activities*. It is upto the carriers how they want to use the software. I think its important that the carriers be made answerable and not the software/hardware manufacturers.

agreed, but if we don't know about it being on the phone both parties are responsible and there should be an opt out option.

Why should CIQ be responsible for telling you? THEY didn't put it on the phone, the Carriers did; why is that so hard to understand?

"One cannot blame the ammunition manufacturers for producing ammo."

Yes, you can. They are classic enablers. The example I've used before and will use again is the Farben company of Germany that produced Zyklon B cyanide gas that ended millions of Jewish lives. Demand doesn't excuse complicity.

"Yes, I said all four -- Verizon may not use Carrier IQ, but they collect the same exact information somehow."

Based on exactly what evidence? It's purely speculation, no facts to back it up. Seriously, I'm not naive enough to think Verizon isn't collecting some type of info, but to equate it to something equivalent to other carriers using Carrier IQ without some facts to back it up is just B.S. C’Mon Man!

Because they admit to it? 

They collect "Information about how you use your mobile device, such as the installation and usage of all third party applications, diagnostic information, your use of accessories, and all hardware features"

Activate a new Verizon phone with their brand of tracking software.  Read what you agree to.

Are you sure? I believe that you may have selected an option for that, but if you watch the video you see that he "opted out" too, but ciq was still collecting the data.

Well stated Jerry. The carrier's jurisdiction ends at the terminal of the modem. They have NO BUSINESS being in MY phone. If this was really only about infrastructure analysis they could certainly do that from the tower. No, this is about extra revenue from ad analytics and extra attempts at enforcing absurd tethering fees.

Thanks Jerry. I'm happy to see an article on your blog that finally nails the real issue here ... the carriers. Unfortunately, I believe the end result out of this whole mess is going to be more government regulation. But maybe it'll be a good thing in this case. The carriers obviously need some rules that govern proper disclosures regarding monitoring software on portable communication devices, as well as a requirement to provide an opt-out provision.

The short answer that immediately occurs to me is that the Big 4 aren't in front of congress because they can afford congressmen, whereas little Carrier IQ can't.

I honestly don't give a rats ass. If they want to keep track of the location where I take a shit, or know where I like to eat out, go for it.

Don't pretend CIQ is an innocent here. It's more likely that they wrote this then shopped it around. If it was commissioned, Sprint or whoever commissioned it would have exclusivity and the company wouldn't be called CarrierIQ. It would be CarrierIQ by ProgramSoft or whatever.

Hang them all. CarrierIQ isn't just a bunch of naive nerds.

It seems a bit counterproductive for the FTC to go after CIQ when the NTSB wants to ban all cell phone use except for GPS Nav while driving. Come on you government idiots! Stop working at cross purposes! How else are you going to track whether someone is using their phone while it is in motion and then use the GPS locator to send in the troops to arrest the scoff-law if you don't have the CIQ data to monitor? (Hey, where'd that black helicopter come from? ....)