Update: Sprint says it's no longer using Carrier IQ

Sprint, in its reponse to U.S. Sen. Al Franken over its use of the Carrier IQ software, goes into great detail about how and why it needs and uses such analytic data, reiterating that "The Carrier IQ diagnostic tool can help Sprint engineers understand the functionality (or not) of handset appliations when connecting with the network and steps that Sprint might take to improve services ..."

Sprint also told Franken that it has Carrier IQ installed on some 26 million devices, but that the Carrier IQ software doesn't actually collect any data until Sprint itself tells it to. In fact, says Sprint, only 1.3 million devices -- that's 5 percent of the 26 million total -- may be "tasked" to collect data at a given time. And, Sprint says, that number often is much lower -- 30,000 -- when responding to specific research requests.

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Sprint didn't spell out exactly which of its devices use Carrier IQ -- which has been in service of the carrier since 2006 -- but we've already seen answers from HTC and Samsung. (Motorola's are forthcoming.) The phones listed thus far include:

  • Samsung: Moment, Epic 4G, Intercept, Transform, Galaxy Tab (original 7-inch), Galaxy Prevail, Replenish, Conquer 4G, Transform Ultra (Boost Mobile), Epic 4G Touch
  • HTC: Snap (Windows Mobile), Touch Pro 2 (Windows Mobile), Hero, EVO 4G, EVO Shift 4G, EVO 3D, EVO Design 4G

Sprint also told Franken that it does not share any of the data it receives with third parties, that it "is used internally for Sprint's own use, for analysis by Sprint employees and contractors to assist wtih device certification and functionality on its own network, for network maintenance and improvement." But, Sprint added, "In the course of certifying device funcationality, prior to selling phones to customers, Sprint does share and receive certain testing results with handset manufacturers." The emphasis there is ours. Anything it shares with the manufacturer comes before it's in your pocket. Sprint also indicated that it does nto share any Carrier IQ data with law enforcement.

Sprint also explained how long Carrier IQ data is stored. Carrier IQ itself stores some of the data on its services for "approximately 30-45 days." Sprint keeps some data on its own servers for 6 months or so, and stores aggregated reports from Carrier IQ for 12 months (varies depending on the analysis being conducted, Sprint says). 

Probably our favorite part of Sprint's repsonse, though, comes from a footnote in its introductary statement, wherein Sprint reminds us all that it already knows the cell site you're using, the people your calling and texting, and the websites you're visiting. It has to to be a carrier, and you're paying it to do so. Here's the full passage:

"Similarly, we know the cell site on which a phone is registering its location, which is necessary for the delivery of voice and data services. We also know the telephone numbers to which our customers initiated a call or sent a text. Such data is necessary to deliver communications services. In many cases the data collection is required by law and regulations."

More: Sprint's response (pdf)

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