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Sprint disables Carrier IQ, despite insisting it doesn't snoop

Sprint has disabled Carrier IQ on 26 million devices, according to a report, after legislators questioned the software and customers expressed concern.

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Sprint has confirmed that it will disable the Carrier IQ software on its phones and no longer use the software to collect network information.

"We have weighed customer concerns and we have disabled use of the tool so that diagnostic information and data is no longer being collected," Sprint told Mobile Burn in an email. "We are further evaluating options regarding this diagnostic software as well as Sprint's diagnostic needs."

The public-relations move follows Sprint's ongoing insistence that it only uses the software to "improve wireless network and service performance" and that it "cannot look at the content of customer messages, emails, photos, videos, etc., using the diagnostic tools offered by Carrier IQ" (CP: FTC asked to investigate Carrier IQ practices).

In a five-page response to a Dec. 1 letter from Sen. Al Franken, Sprint Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Vonya B. McCann answered Franken's questions and explicitly described what Sprint does and how the Carrier IQ software has helped it.

"Discovering ... why a page did not load requires Sprint to understand what users may be experiencing with their handsets," she wrote. "That is how Sprint has used Carrier IQ — as a diagnostic tool on devices. The Carrier IQ diagnostic tool can help Sprint engineers understand the functionality (or not) of handset applications when connecting with the network and steps that Sprint might take to improve services and the customers experience, including network enhancement."

She added that Sprint has not used the software to serve targeted advertising, to profile customers or for any purpose not specifically related to a device's performance. She also emphasized the security precautions Sprint takes with the data, and that Carrier IQ has agreed to in a contract, using "technical, physical and administrative safeguards and meeting or exceeding industry best practices in safeguarding data."

And still the carrier, which has been working quarter after quarter to sign on more new users than it loses, ultimately decided to back away from the suddenly contested software.

AT&T has said the software is on approximately 900,000 of its phones (CP: We now know who deployed Carrier IQ, if not how it will all end up), while Sprint has said it's on 26 million of its active devices.

McCann clarified in her letter, however, that not all the devices are reporting back all of the time — only when "tasked" for information. "At any one time," she wrote, "only 1.3 million devices may be tasked to collect and report data." In other instances, just 30,000 devices may be "queried to respond to a research request from Sprint personnel."

Franken responded that, despite the responses he received, he continues to be concerned and "troubled."

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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