Although the story is still developing, it’s clear that some phones on certain carriers have app called Carrier IQ pre-installed. The software has been demonstrated to capture nearly every action you take on a smartphone and view textual data, such as SMS messages and web searches. How much of that data is being sent to carriers and handset makers is still an open question, but clearly, there’s the potential for a total disregard of consumer privacy.
The situation might be different if the Carrier IQ software was more transparent. Unlike other services that can collect data, there’s no opt-in or opt-out choice with Carrier IQ. Instead, it runs silently in the background on a phone and can’t easily be disabled. Consumers effectively don’t even know if their phone has the Carrier IQ software installed, although we found a way to check on a rooted Android handset.
What we know and don’t know (yet)
We do know that Apple’s iOS did have Carrier IQ hooks in the past, but the company told AllThingsD that it stopped using Carrier IQ with iOS 5. Verizon Wireless has already said that it doesn’t use Carrier IQ. Meanwhile, Sprint has publicly admitted using the software for network monitoring and performance reasons, although it’s not clear which phones do or don’t use Carrier IQ on Sprint’s network. AT&T is now copping to using Carrier IQ data as well.
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore has come forth to tweet that the Windows Phone platform doesn’t use it Carrier IQ at all. HTC and Samsung are two handset makers that have been found to use it, while Nokia and RIM both deny using the software on their devices. Again, more details will likely come forth over the next few days.
Will this modify buying behaviors?
Regardless, the situation has me wondering: Will the Carrier IQ situation cause people to think harder about their choice of smartphone or carrier? Might you shift your next handset purchase away from Samsung or HTC, for example?
We’ll keep this simple in the poll with a basic yes or no response, but don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments. As for me, I’m glad I just bought a new Galaxy Nexus because Google has said it doesn’t put Carrier IQ on any of its Nexus devices.