HTC Legal

Seems like every time you turn around you'll see corporations using sneaky tricks to gain a competitive advantage over a different, yet equally sneaky corporation.  That's usually how money is made by the people who are best at making lots of it -- at the expense of others.  The cell phone industry is no different, even though we wish it were.  Yes, I'm talking about Carrier IQ, and it's my turn to bitch.

Carrier IQ sells a stock client for BlackBerry, Symbian, and Android.  There's strong evidence that  they also make client software for other smartphone platforms, and even semi-smartphone OS's like Bada or BREW.  But they're only making it easy to get the same type of data your carrier has been collecting about you since the minute you turned your cell phone on.  If they're collecting it in an insecure manner, which has happened, that's bad on them, and they need to fix it -- pronto. But they're not doing it on their own. They're doing it at the behest of the manufacturer and the carrier, who uses the data to determine how to make changes that get you to spend more money when they offer you the latest shiny.  If 72 percent of the people use a certain feature, you can bet your last dollar that more work goes into making that feature "better" so it's a stronger selling point.  Carrier IQ, as a company, could care less what you do with your smartphone, when you do it, or why.  All they do is make it easier for the people you give your money to each month to see why you like your phone.  I don't work for HTC or AT&T, but I'm sure easy data collection and aggregation makes for a compelling sales pitch.

CIQ isn't doing anything it's not supposed to be doing, unless there's a software bug in play.  The software was purposefully placed there in order to track what you're doing in real time.  Apparently, it works pretty well.  Some may argue that it's a rootkit, or a flaw of some sort, but to the people using the product -- again, the carrier and manufacturer -- it's a feature, one that they pay money to include.  Remember, you are not HTC's (or Samsung, or LG, or RIM, etc.) customer -- companies like Verizon and Sprint are, and all parties find the data that's collected pretty damn useful, so they aren't likely to stop collecting it.

It could be argued that you don't have a choice in the matter. You bought the phone. And while there might be (and usually is -- see the picture above from a CIQ enabled HTC phone) some vague reference to the phone collecting data about how you use it, you likely skipped over that section, and it's not all that up-front about what's being collected or how it's being done. But on the other hand, that's probably true about 90 percent of what your phone's doing at any given time.  It works exactly how it's supposed to work.  Getting mad about it after the fact isn't very productive, and isn't going to solve the problem any time soon.

Vote with your wallet.  You have the option to say no to this sort of data collection software, and that's done by not buying phones that use it.  Every major carrier in the world now carries one of those.

Yes, I think Carrier IQ is a bad thing, done by unscrupulous people so they have more pennies to count.  But all the hate towards the company that writes and sells the software is misguided.  They are only filling a need, and if they stop someone else will step up to replace them.  Enough words have been written about it, yet the solution for Android fans only needs three:

Buy a Nexus.