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Google's Schmidt calls Carrier IQ software a keylogger

It actually records keystrokes, he says at a conference in the Netherlands

December 8, 2011 04:53 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt today distanced his company from Carrier IQ's software, even as he described the technology as a keylogger. Schmidt's comments came at an Internet freedom conference in the Netherlands.

A Reutersstory from The Hague quotes Schmidt as saying that Carrier IQ's software is a keylogger that "actually does keep your keystrokes."

"We certainly don't work with them and we certainly don't support it," Schmidt said.

It was not immediately clear whether Schmidt's description of Carrier IQ as a keylogger was based on independent knowledge of the software or on recent claims by security researcher Trevor Eckhart.

Eckhart in November released a report in which he described Carrier IQ's software as a keylogger that could be used by wireless carriers to do extensive and surreptitious tracking of mobile users.

Eckhart's report raised a firestorm of controversy and resulted in several lawsuits against wireless carriers and handset makers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, HTC, Samsung and Apple. It has also prompted calls from lawmakers for an investigation of Carrier IQ's software by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Carrier IQ and the carriers themselves have insisted that the software is used only for network diagnostics and quality of service purposes. Carrier IQ has emphatically denied that its software is a keylogger.

A handful of security researchers who analyzed Carrier IQ's software agreed with the company and said it does not appear to be as nefarious as initially feared.

Schmidt's comments, therefore, are likely to again spark debate over just how intrusive Carrier IQ's software really is. Handsets based on Google's Android operating system were among those identified by Eckhart as carrying carrier IQ software.

Schmidt today made it clear that Google itself has nothing to do with the controversial software. "Android is an open platform, so it's possible for people to build software that's actually not very good for you, and this appears to be one," Reuters reported.

Carrier IQ did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schmidt's comments.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at Twitter @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed Vijayan RSS. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Read more about Privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.



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