A discovery on most major smartphones has led to a scandal in the tech industry, leading to three major lawsuits against most smartphone providers.
The software created by Carrier IQ is said to keep track of every keystroke the user makes on their smartphone, from Internet searches to keying in a phone number. This has raised several red flags as there is the potential even private information is being logged by major phone companies and carriers.
Three lawsuits have now been issued on the behalf of millions of users against HTC and Samsung on Thursday in Chicago and St. Louis, reports Paid Content. The third lawsuit is suing Apple, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Motorola in Delaware, as reported late Friday.
The lawsuits stem from the Federal Wiretap Act, a law which forbids the intercepting of "oral, wire or electronic communications," with penalties of $100 per day for every violation that takes place. In this instance, the violations could have been going on for years without the knowledge (or consent) of smartphone users. The lawsuits are seeking monetary compensation.
Controversy broke out when YouTube videos showed the alleged software logging information in real-time, the person in the video being a security researcher, Trevor Eckhart. Engadget said about the video and the software: "Even information that should be transferred only within encrypted sessions is captured in plain text by Carrier IQ. During the entire demonstration, Trevor's phone was in airplane mode, operating only over WiFi."
The software also automatically starts when Eckhart's phone is on and the OS is active in the videos. Carrier IQ also did not show up in the list of commands which can be forced to quit their function, causing more suspicion for the use of the software and Carrier IQ's motives. However, debugging software works and acts the same way, too, as explained by Mashable.
Carrier IQ allegedly threatened Eckhart with a cease-and-desist letter, later retracting it and extending an apology, and then went on to explain the logged information was simply there to help phone carriers provide better service and denied any "spying" on users, Consumer Affairs reports.
The vague explanation and then outright denial also did not satisfy Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), who sent a letter demanding the exact reasoning behind logging user's keystrokes and private data as well as questioning other business practices the company uses.
Major smartphone companies have stepped in to express their own opinions on Carrier IQ, Apple in particular vowing to drop the software in the next iOS update altogether. Other companies, such as Sprint and AT&T, have commented on the issue and said Carrier ID's software is purely for network performance on their devices. HTC put the blame on Carrier IQ and sparked another defensive statement from Carrier IQ.
Carrier IQ is a Mountain View, California based company which was founded in 2005, their current CEO being Larry Lenhart. In an attempt to gain back some favor among the public, the company recently released a video on YouTube detailing their views on user privacy and how much it means to them. Unfortunately, the video has 2,220 dislikes as of Monday, compared to a dismal 51 likes, and has disabled comments.