The Carrier IQ conspiracy

By Madison Ruppert

Editor of End the Lie

Just weeks ago Trevor Eckhart, a security researcher and Android operating system developer, discovered a mysterious process running in the background of his Android-based device.

This program turned out to by Carrier IQ, or CIQ, and specifically the IQ Agent which is installed on mobile devices from all major carriers before they reach the consumer, totaling some 150 million phones, mostly in the United States.

The software is billed as a diagnostic tool which allows cellphone carriers to “better understand how mobile devices interact with and perform on their network,” according to an official Carrier IQ document which attempts to dispel what they bill as rumors and unfounded concerns of consumers and researchers.

The document is somewhat opaque and esoteric for those of us not familiar with the terminology and technology at work in these highly complex systems but some of it is quite easy to understand.

In the second paragraph of the introduction we read, “We want to thank Trevor Eckhart for sharing his findings with us through a working session that helped us to identify some of the issues highlighted in this report.”

This gives the impression that Carrier IQ was happy to see the findings of Eckhart and what he uncovered, but this is far from reality.

Eckhart discovered that the software was integrated with Android at the deepest levels and was able to monitor, record, and transmit even the most private data and interactions with the device.

He alleged that it could monitor every single individual keystroke and every interaction with the screen for that matter, along with encrypted internet browsing sessions and searches, GPS data, network data, battery data, among other pieces of information which many people would likely like to keep private.

Instead of praising Eckhart and working closely with him as the introductory paragraph might have you believe, Carrier IQ sued Eckhart for copyright infringement because he made publicly available training materials accessible to interested parties, where otherwise they might not have been able to find them on the Carrier IQ website.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, stepped in on Eckhart’s behalf and countered their frivolous legal threat – clearly intended to silence Eckhart and stifle his research – after which Carrier IQ withdrew their threat entirely.

(Infographic credit: Eletronic Frontier Foundation)

The EFF has produced a simplified, but not dumbed-down, explanation of Carrier IQ and how exactly it operates, which you can read here.

For those who are interested in learning more about this program, which is likely active on your device if you own a smartphone, this brief article is an absolute must read.

Carrier IQ continues to maintain their innocence and claim that the software does not record keystrokes (and thus the content of every email, text message, or anything else you might type), but Eckhart’s research shows otherwise.

The second video released by Eckhart (seen here) clearly shows the software doing things that Carrier IQ claims it does not, along with others who seek to defend this technology and the erosion of privacy in the digital age.

As a result of Eckhart’s findings, lawsuits have been filed against Carrier IQ, HTC, Samsung, Apple, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Motorola, alleging that it breaches the Federal Wiretap Act, Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Despite the company’s insistence to the contrary, the suit alleges that, “[i]n addition to collecting device and service-related data, Carrier IQ’s software can collect data about a user’s location, application use, Web browsing habits, videos watched, texts read and even the keys they press.”

The establishment media has come to the aid of their corporate cronies, citing so-called experts who “debunked” Eckhart’s findings.

Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CNET (which is owned by CBS Interactive and is thus part of the “big six”) and Dan Rosenberg, a supposed security expert allegedly debunked Eckhart’s findings although their evidence is hardly compelling.

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