NEWS24 November 2011

Carrier IQ drops legal action against software researcher

Data analytics North America

US— Mobile intelligence firm Carrier IQ backpedalled yesterday from threats of legal action brought against a researcher who raised concerns about the type of data the company was collecting from mobile phone handsets.

Trevor Eckhart’s analysis of the company’s software, which is installed on 140 million phones, said the technology could be used to monitor and log a broad range of activities – including keystrokes and user locations.

Carrier IQ insists its tools are only used to collect information on the operational performance of a device and that it does not provide user tracking tools. But in a move that backfired, company lawyers sent Eckhart a cease-and-desist letter claiming unspecified false allegations and copyright infringement, as Eckhart had made copies of and used extracts from the company’s training materials in his post. The company gave him until 18 November to delete his work and issue an apology and correction.

Eckhart refused and instead turned to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), whose senior staff attorney wrote to Carrier IQ on his behalf saying his work was protected from copyright infringement claims under the fair use doctrine and the First Amendment. EFF also took issue with the company’s reliance on “broad accusations” of false allegations rather than specific actionable statements.

Two days later, Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart wrote to say that the company would be withdrawing its cease-and-desist demands. “In retrospect,” he said, “we realise that we would have been better served by reaching out to Mr Eckhart to establish a dialogue in the first instance.”

In a separate statement the company called its actions “misguided”. Responding to Eckhart’s post and the concerns raised, it said its software does not record keystrokes, provide tracking tools or inspect and report on the contents of email or text message communications, nor does it provide real-time data reporting to any of its mobile network customers.

The metrics Carrier IQ is interested in, the company said, are instances of dropped calls or poor quality service, any on-device problems that might impede a phone’s battery life and the identification of trending problems.

In October Carrier IQ announced a partnership with Nielsen to assess the performance of mobile services, networks and devices around the world.