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Denials, lawsuits next step in Carrier IQ flare-up

The vendor issued its first public statement denying culpability but that didn’t stop what one might assume are the first wave of lawsuits from appearing

The Carrier IQ mobile phone tracking controversy shows no sign of slowing down, with the vendor saying it doesn’t track personal info -- though it might use it -- and HTC and Samsung getting yanked into class action lawsuits.

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Carrier IQ issued its statement, its first on the matter, Thursday evening, claiming that with the company’s software “we measure and summarize performance of the device to assist operators in delivering better service,” further stating it “vigorously disagrees” with charges that it has broken wiretap or other laws. The statement goes on to say:

While a few individuals have identified that there is a great deal of information available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset, our software does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video. For example, we understand whether an SMS was sent accurately, but do not record or transmit the content of the SMS. We know which applications are draining your battery, but do not capture the screen.

Carrier IQ claims it protects consumer privacy by gathering data of encrypted channels and at security audited facilities. Consumers have a relationship with their carrier customers, and “as a condition of its contracts with Operators, CIQ operates exclusively within that framework and under the laws of the applicable jurisdiction,” the statement added.

Why track such data at all? According to Carrier IQ, its “software makes your phone better by delivering intelligence on the performance of mobile devices and networks to help the Operators provide optimal service efficiency,” the statement said. “Carrier IQ acts as an agent for the Operators. Each implementation is different and the diagnostic information actually gathered is determined by our customers – the mobile Operators. Carrier IQ does not gather any other data from devices.”

At least three operators – AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint – have said they use the software, but all claim no nefarious purpose.

As we noted in an earlier analysis (CP: Analysis: Is Carrier IQ controversy the perfect storm to destroy operator trust?), even if the Carrier IQ software and operator use of it is found to be reasonable, the impact on consumer trust might be hard to shake off.

Certainly not helping that “trust equation” are a pair of class-action lawsuits apparently filed in Illinois and Missouri, respectively, naming Carrier IQ, HTC and Samsung in the complaints. Even as the lawsuits were filed, phone maker HTC was already trying to deflect blame, shifting it over to its operator partners.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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