Privacy Law

New Smartphone Suit re Data-Sharing Software Targets Apple, Wireless Cos., Device Makers, Carrier IQ

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In at least the third would-be class action filed since technology blogger Trevor Eckhart last month reported that smartphones are providing carriers with private information about individual users, eight major defendants are accused in a federal lawsuit (PDF) filed Dec. 2 in Delaware of violating wiretap law via their common use of Carrier IQ technology.

When smartphones equipped with Carrier IQ are switched on, the software can, the suit contends, “collect data about a user’s location, application use, Web browsing habits, videos watched, texts read and even the keys they press.”

Whether Carrier IQ actually is used by the defendants to collect data on all of these fronts, however, is doubtful, according to CNET and PC Magazine’s Security Watch blog.

And, even if the phones of some 150 million users are collecting all of this data, it appears that the data is probably not being used, at least right now, to violate individuals’ privacy. Carriers insist that the software simply makes it possible to diagnose network issues and keep smartphones running smoothly.

Nonetheless, consumers and lawmakers in the United States and Europe want to know why smartphones allegedly may be transmitting data about users’ location and Internet use without their knowledge or permission, according to Computerworld.

Apple Inc., which is named as a defendant in the new case, along with Carrier IQ Inc. and six wireless carriers and smartphone manufacturers, says it is working on a fix to address consumers’ concerns and remove the software as early as today. However, the company declined to comment on the case, as did Carrier IQ.

Federal suits have also been filed in the Northern District of California and the Eastern District of Missouri, reports eWeek.

In a press release accompanying a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation of Carrier IQ, Congressman Edward Markey, D-Mass, cited “serious concerns about the Carrier IQ software and whether it is secretly collecting users’ personal information, such as the content of text messages.”

Other lawmakers, including Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, also have expressed concern and called for further investigation, as a press release from his office details.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “App-solutely Perilous? Security of Mobile Apps Spurs Concern” “Many Wince at Above the Law Blogger’s Chilling Account of Online ‘Stalk’” “Surveillance System May Have Recorded Courthouse Conversations in Violation of Federal Law”

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