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MinnPost: Franken questions firm tracking smartphone users

Sen. Al Franken has called on a software developer specializing in “mobile service intelligence” that is said to track even minute details about consumers’ smartphone usage to detail exactly what data it tracks and how it uses it.

Earlier this week a researcher found that a software called Carrier IQ, embedded in Nokia, Android and Research in Motion smartphones, is logging and potentially transmitting users’ data related to everything from when the phone is turned off and on to which websites they were visiting and topics they were searching.

Sen. Al Franken has called on a software developer specializing in “mobile service intelligence” that is said to track even minute details about consumers’ smartphone usage to detail exactly what data it tracks and how it uses it.

Earlier this week a researcher found that a software called Carrier IQ, embedded in Nokia, Android and Research in Motion smartphones, is logging and potentially transmitting users’ data related to everything from when the phone is turned off and on to which websites they were visiting and topics they were searching.

According to Franken’s office, the software is believed to track:

  • when they turn their phones on;
  • when they turn their phones off;
  • the phone numbers they dial;
  • the contents of text messages they receive;
  • the URLs of the websites they visit;
  • the contents of their online search queries—even when those searches are encrypted; and
  • the location of the customer using the smartphone—even when the customer has expressly denied permission for an app that is currently running to access his or her location.

In November, Carrier IQ acknowledged tracking user data and sending it to phone manufacturers, which use the software as “a mission critical tool to improve the quality of the network, understand device issues and ultimately improve the user experience.” The company denied using the data for any nefarious purpose.

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