Carrier IQ named 'company under $100M to watch' -- and users don't even get a thank-you

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.

More: BusinessWire

Have you listened to this week's Android Central Podcast?

Android Central

Every week, the Android Central Podcast brings you the latest tech news, analysis and hot takes, with familiar co-hosts and special guests.

  • Subscribe in Pocket Casts: Audio
  • Subscribe in Spotify: Audio
  • Subscribe in iTunes: Audio (opens in new tab)
Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • can't help but be reminded of the South Park ep "humancentipad" "you didn't read the terms & conditions?!?"
  • Someone breaks into my house and starts going through my personal items and I come home, they will take them out in a body bag. That's how I feel about this.
    So, what carriers? Anyone know?
  • Sprint is one of them, the Carrier IQ spyware is found on pretty much all of their Android devices (except the NS4G obviously).
  • Sprint use's CIQ, first thing i normally delete after rooting a phone, and thankfully most dev's are starting to remove it for us when dev'ing a rom for us.
  • Another reason to be glad I've been running CM7 exclusively from the beginning. After putting CM7 on my MyTouch 4G, I had to send it back to T-Mobile due a crappy screen (people with MT4G know what I'm talking about). I put stock back on the phone before sending it back. After restoring it, I played around with the phone a bit to remind myself why I didn't like Espresso Sense. Unbeknownst to me, somehow by just playing around with the apps I signed up for the $10/month T-Mobile TV service. It showed up on my bill the next month, despite the fact that I had a new phone with CM7 on it and thus no way to access said service. I complained to T-Mobile and they cancelled it and reimbursed me. However, it reminded me of how the carriers set these traps to snare you. For this reason, I'll probably never except stock firmware again on a non-Nexus phone, even if the users experience is satisfactory to me.
  • Can't wait for ICS to disable bloat and spyware
  • >"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 " You need to reword that. You are not saving $200. You are *FINANCING* $200 over a two year contract and with a $300 down payment. And I guarantee it costs the consumer far more than $200 over those two years. I think it is a hugely corrupt practice that the FTC should either completely stop or force the carriers to reword and properly disclose. It is just as bad as advertising a "free phone". I suppose my house was "free" too if I bought one with a 30 year mortgage and no down payment...
  • "I suppose my house was "free" too if I bought one with a 30 year mortgage and no down payment..." Best ever! I hope you don't mind, I am totally using that whenever I can...
  • I'll have to disagree.  If that were the case, your bill would be lower if you didn't get a hardware subsidy.
  • Buy an iPhone? If you think Apple doesn't collect the same kind of data for their own use you're very naive... And they're just as careless with it too, as evidenced by the while geolocation data cache scandal a few months ago. They probably share the data with carriers too, when it suits them.
  • I think I would have a harder time accepting Apple being the one ending up with my usage reports than the carries but maybe that's just the Anti-Apple part in me...
  • As does Google. 
  • Thanks for this, Jerry. Wow. I live in Oakland, by the way. We'll take this to the streets. ;)
  • Yep... This is a exctally the reason my Epic 4g is rocking Syndicate Rom Frozen.
  • So...just root your phone! :D
  • Actually, I think if a bunch of power users used the app, it would be amazing. It would essentially really push OEMs to improve things like deep menus and make carriers think about network capacity (because of high data usage).