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Carrier IQ moves to allay fears of its tracking software

Releases 19-page document that explains how the software works, and what it tracks

December 13, 2011 02:57 PM ET

Computerworld - Carrier IQ last night released a document describing its technology in what appears to be a belated attempt to quell continuing concerns over its controversial tracking software.

The 19-page Carrier IQ document offers the most detailed explanation yet of how the tracking software works and how wireless carriers are using it.

The move is the latest by Carrier IQ to rebut 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 and other smartphone users.

The Carrier IQ document lists specific information that wireless carriers can gather from mobile handsets using the Carrier IQ software. It also provides details on how the software is deployed on mobile devices.

In the document, dubbed Understanding Carrier IQ Technology, the company said it "wants to let consumers know exactly what it is that our software does, the security measures we have in place, and our commitment through our software design and processes to protecting consumers' privacy while improving consumers' experience."

Experts say that it remains an open question as to whether that assurance is enough to quell the concern.

Carrier IQ controversy began with Eckhart's disclosure that the software could be used to gather and track all sorts of personal data from Android-powered handsets and virtually any other mobile device.

In a video posted on YouTube, Eckhart displayed what he said was evidence of Carrier IQ's software capturing his every keystroke and even recording the content of his SMS messages and his search queries.

Eckhart's disclosure ignited an immediate firestorm of concern and criticism from consumers, U.S. lawmakers and European Union regulators.

Carrier IQ and several wireless carriers and handset makers have admitted that the software is installed in handsets sold to sonsumers, but insist that it is benign and designed primarily to collect data for optimizing network and device performance.

Carrier IQ has said its software is typically either preloaded on handsets supplied by wireless carriers or is more deeply embedded into the device by the device makers.

Both the preloaded version and the embedded version are designed to allow wireless carriers to capture certain metrics, such as dropped calls, service interruptions or battery use, the document said.

The embedded version of the technology can be used to gather a lot more detailed information from the device than the preloaded version, and requires a Carrier IQ API to interface with the mobile device, according to the company.

Carrier IQ lists more than 225 separate pieces of information that wireless carriers can gather from mobile devices using the software -- all of it strictly related to network and device performance, the document says.

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