azrienoch · Dec 13, 2011 at 08:30 am

Carrier IQ Releases a Report, FBI is Silent

Carrier IQ released a 19-page document explaining their software, how it’s used, and how it protects the data it collects.  Much of it we already heard, but now with more thorough detail.  Click here to listen to this article.

After describing the basics of Carrier IQ and how it’s implemented–a section which points a finger squarely at the manufacturers and carriers–the document addresses specific questions people asked since the issue blew up in the media.  They begin by answering Trevor Eckhart’s (XDA Recognized Developer, TrevE) video that shows IQ Agent listening to keystrokes.

We cannot comment on all handset manufacturer implementations of Android. Our investigation of Trevor Eckhart’s video indicates that location, key presses, SMS and other information appears in log files as a result of debug messages from pre-production handset manufacturer software.  Specifically it appears that the handset manufacturer software’s debug capabilities remained “switched on” in devices sold to consumers… The IQ Agent does not use the Android log files to acquire or output metrics.

But they recognize the danger of that information sitting in Android logs, and recommend that manufacturers and carriers turn off debugging to keep those logs hidden.  Then, they claim to have found a bug during their investigation that actually sends encrypted SMS texts, but they promise that they don’t unencrypt those messages.

Carrier IQ has discovered that, due to this bug, in some unique circumstances, such as a when a user receives an SMS during a call, or during a simultaneous data session, SMS messages may have unintentionally been included in the layer 3 signaling traffic that is collected by the IQ Agent.

They then explain that web URLs are collected at the behest of the carrier, as they say, to diagnose Internet browsing issues.  All of this information is stored on your device until it is uploaded, which “is typically [every] 24 hours.”  They do not provide the complete range of intervals their software is capable of setting in a profile.  However, the upload can be manually triggered, either by entering a keycode or by remote control, with commands sent in SMS texts.  According to TrevE, these texts are hidden from the user.

Lastly, the report addresses its collection of location data.  They explain the intended use of the information, but do not explain the criteria for location collection.  That is, we don’t know the intervals at which your GPS location is recorded, and if the software on the phone determines whether to send only some of those locations.  This is important because the FBI may have excessively pinged information collected by Carrier IQ’s software, without warrant, to track the locations of individuals.

In fact, MuckRock News, a website that helps people request information from the FBI,  reported that their FOIA request for reports on Carrier IQ was denied.  The reason given is that release of that information would compromise an ongoing investigation.  Either they are still using that information,  investigating Carrier IQ, or both.  The denial itself is confirmation that the FBI has such documents.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if they launch an investigation of Carrier IQ in order to buy some time before admitting their use of the data.  As far as Carrier IQ is concerned, I appreciate the explanation of your software’s intended use, but what we want to know, all of our concerns, require the full disclosure its actual use.


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azrienoch

azrienoch is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. View azrienoch's posts and articles here.
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