Sprint Disables Carrier IQ Across All Phones

By Ariel Jones — December 22, 2011

Sprint has announced that Carrier IQ's controversial mobile analytics measurement tool would be removed from all devices on its network. The company issued a statement that this move was in response to customer concerns about privacy, but maintains that it never obtained any specific user content, such as text messages and keystrokes.

In the statement issued December 19, Sprint representatives wrote, "We have weighed customer concerns and we have disabled use of the tool so that diagnostic information and data is no longer being collected." The statement goes on to clarify that any information collected from the service was used solely to improve network and device performance, and that these analytics were not used to profile customers for targeted advertising.

Interestingly, Sprint did not mention any specific plans that it was terminating its contract with Carrier IQ, only that it was "further evaluating options regarding this diagnostic software as well as Sprint’s diagnostic needs." The statement continues, "Customers can trust that we look at only enough information through the Carrier IQ tool reporting aggregated, anonymized metrics, to understand the customer experience with devices and how we can improve our performance and enhance the customer experience."

This latest move by Sprint reveals that the Carrier IQ scandal is far from over, as the company is currently involved in several lawsuits and has spoken to US regulators regarding federal wiretapping violations.

As reported in an earlier Mobile Enterprise article, the Carrier IQ firestorm began when software developer Trevor Eckhart posted a YouTube video detailing how the hidden software apparently recorded keystrokes, location, URLs, and other personal information, from an HTC Android phone. The video sparked outrage among millions of customers who could not opt-out of the application, and were left in the dark as to what information was being collected and how it was being used.

How Other Providers’ and Manufacturers Are Responding to the Carrier IQ Controversy
Although other mobile device manufacturers and wireless service providers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, have admitted to using the Carrier IQ analytics tool on their devices, none have taken the step of actually disabling the tool on their phones.

In response to questioning from Senator Al Franken about their use of the Carrier IQ data, these companies issued statements that echoed Sprint’s assertion that they only collect network, performance, and usage information to improve consumer experience. In addition, the companies have all provided lists of devices that come pre-loaded with Carrier IQ software. According to these statements, Sprint is the largest user of Carrier IQ.

Sprint, which confirmed that Carrier IQ was installed on 26 million of their devices, noted that it only collects data from about 1.3 million of those devices. AT&T reports that it collects data on approximately 900,000 devices, with only 575,000 of those actually sending data to the company. In addition, the software is loaded on 11 of its devices and embedded, but inactive, on another three.

T-Mobile issued a statement that about 450,000 of their customers use nine devices pre-loaded with the Carrier IQ software, and that the service was never used to view customer private messages or internet activity.

Samsung’s response states that the company manufactured and sold approximately 25 million devices that were pre-installed with the software, but to carriers such as Sprint, so they were unaware of how many devices with Carrier IQ actually made it to consumers. HTC responded similarly, stating that approximately 6.3 million HTC devices were using the Carrier IQ tool, but these were supplied to wireless service providers. Motorola noted that it never had access to data, except for approximately 125 devices used to test the Carrier IQ software implementation.


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