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FBI rejects FOIA request for Carrier IQ info

Agency says release of data would 'interfere with law enforcement proceedings'

December 13, 2011 06:36 AM ET

Computerworld - The FBI has denied a request for the release of information regarding its use of Carrier IQ's software, saying that releasing the information could interfere with ongoing law enforcement operations.

The response does not make clear whether the law enforcement agency is using Carrier IQ software for investigative purposes, or whether the documents it declined to release are related to an investigation of the controversial application.

The request under the Freedom of Information Act was filed Dec. 1 by Michael Morisy, co-founder of MuckRock, a website that helps people file FOIA requests with the government. Morisy asked the FBI for any manuals, documents or other written material it might have related to the FBI's use of data gathered by Carrier IQ.

In response, David Hardy, the section manager of the FBI's Records Management Group, said the FBI has in its possession "responsive documents" pertaining to Carrier IQ. However, Hardy said the FBI would not release the documents as requested because doing so would compromise ongoing investigations.

"The material you requested is located in an investigative file which is exempt from disclosure," Hardy wrote in his response, which is posted along with the FOIA request on MuckRock.com. "I have determined that the records responsive to your request are law enforcement records; that there is a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding relevant to these responsive records."

Production of such law enforcement records or information ... could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings," Hardy said in rejecting Morisy's request.

The FBI did not respond to a request seeking comment.

The FBI's response leaves unclear "whether the FBI used Carrier IQ's software in its own investigations, whether it is currently investigating Carrier IQ, or whether it is some combination of both," Morisy wrote on MuckRock.

"The response would seem to indicate at least the former, since the request was specifically for documents related directly to accessing and analyzing Carrier IQ data," said Morisy, who plans to appeal the FBI's decision.

Carrier IQ has been at the center of a major controversy since a security researcher last month published a report saying the company's software enables wireless carriers to conduct surreptitious and highly intrusive tracking of mobile phone users.

Carrier IQ and several wireless carriers and handset makers have admitted to installing the software in handsets, but they insist the software is benign and is designed primarily to collect data for optimizing network and device performance. Critics of Carrier IQ's software, who include Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, have claimed the software enables keylogging and extensive data capture.

Several lawsuits have already been filed against wireless carriers and handset makers over the use of Carrier IQ software.

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

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