Market research firm IDC has named Carrier IQ -- a name that provokes a cringe or two -- one of the "companies to watch" for analytics groups under $100 million in revenue. Because it sells away data about your phone use -- telling your carrier what apps you use, how you use them, and when you use them -- we don't like it much around these parts. It's sneaky -- and sneaky is bad. How the whole deal works is that the carriers pay to have an app installed on the shiny new phone you bought, and it runs in the background. The data it sends helps carriers and manufacturers work together to focus improving and innovating the things that folks like you and I use most often. It saves them money, and makes you want to buy their next product by making Sense 4.0 do the things that users often do in a new (and hopefully better) way than Sense 3.0 did. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Read on.
It's not inherently evil, at least on the surface. A carrier eats some of the cost of a phone when they sell it to you subsidized, and users get to enjoy the $200 they saved. But things get a little dicey when you consider who really owns the phone you just paid $299 for and signed two years of your contract life away for at the mall. They tell you up front that they are tracking usage and sending off data about you, but you're not given notice (or a chance to decline) until after the money has been spent. It's like buying a new TV and finding out that Channel 2 has been switched to the Best Buy News Network when you get home and hook it up. You can pack it back up and pay a restocking fee, or shake your head and accept it. Combine all this with the fact that you don't get a break on your monthly bill with most carriers if you opt-out of buying their phones, or that some carriers won't even let you use phones that they don't control, it things take a turn for the worse. And when bugs appear, things turn from worse to FUBAR.
Before anyone jumps in and says "justrootyourphone," that's not the solution. My mother can't, won't, and shouldn't have to root the phone to keep her information a little more private and keep others from profiteering from her. And that solution pretty much goes out the window when you consider she has a Nokia feature phone, which you can't just "root" -- yes, this problem goes beyond Android. What to do? Buy an iPhone or a Nexus. Or just accept what's happening and stop feeling indignant about it, because it's not going away any time soon.