December 13, 2011

For the Conspiracy-Minded: Is the FBI Using Carrier IQ?

The Department of Homeland Security mandates that all PC manufacturers install keyboard-logging devices in all PC keyboards. Well, that’s really an urban myth, one that keeps popping up, depending on the gullible nature of your friends and relatives. The news hitting the wires today seems oddly familiar to this famous urban myth.

Carrier IQ, a privately-owned mobile software company that provides mobile analytics services for smartphones, is rebutting a report published late last month by security researcher Trevor Eckhart contending that wireless carriers could use the Carrier IQ software to conduct surreptitious and highly intrusive tracking of Android, BlackBerry (News - Alert) and other smartphone users.

According to a Freedom of Information response to a request made by the MuckRock blog, the FBI could be using the material in ongoing investigations.

MuckRock had applied to the FBI in a bid to uncover information on “manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ.”

The request was turned down under a legal exemption that any revelation “could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings.”

The FBI said that "it did have responsive documents -- but they were exempt under a provision that covers materials that, if disclosed, might reasonably interfere with an ongoing investigation."

MuckRock believes that means that the FBI has used Carrier IQ data in some sort of criminal investigation.

TNW consulted with their legal expert, and he said there was a perfectly logical explanation for the denial, one that didn't need a criminal investigation.

He said, "What can be inferred, and should have been pointed out, is that Al Franken and others are asking for the FTC (News - Alert) to look into the matter. That is the likely reason why information is being withheld. It’s completely inaccurate to state there is an 'ongoing investigation.'"

What the FBI says seems to lean more towards the MuckRock assumption, and that could be "telling,” but noting is for certain.

Carrier IQ reacted to the FBI statement, telling VentureBeat it doesn’t don’t give your data to the FBI or any other law enforcement for that matter. “Just to clarify all of the media frenzy around the FBI, Carrier IQ has never provided any data to the FBI,” a company spokesperson said.

Michelle Amodio is a TMCnet contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Rich Steeves