Star Tribune – Worried that smartphone software could transmit a phone user’s whereabouts and personal data to manufacturers or wireless providers without the person’s knowledge, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has peppered four big players in the mobile communications industry with a long list of questions.
Franken wants AT&T, HTC, Samsung and Sprint Nextel to tell him what information software on their smartphones gathers and if they retrieve and share the data.
The information gathered by the software is believed to include the location of persons using the phone, even if they have not granted permission for that to be tracked; the time owners turn their phones on and off; the numbers dialed; the contents of text and e-mail messages; website visits and online search queries, even if encrypted.
“This information appears to be logged in a manner undetectable by the average consumer,” Franken wrote to the four companies. “It also appears that when a consumer does become aware of this activity, he or she has no reasonable means to stop it.”
A company called Carrier IQ developed the software in question. Franken said Carrier IQ told him the software was modified and installed by phone manufacturers and mobile phone service providers.
Chris Soghoian, a computer expert and a graduate fellow at Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity, said consumers need to understand that their privacy could be at stake. The Carrier IQ software “is recording everything you’re doing,” Soghoian said. “It’s one application that sees everything. It would be a gold mine for hackers.”