FBI rejects FOIA request for Carrier IQ info

Agency says release of data about its use of Carrier IQ's software would 'interfere with law enforcement proceedings'

The FBI has denied a request for the release of information regarding its use of Carrier IQ's software, saying that releasing the information could interfere with ongoing law enforcement operations.

The response does not make it clear whether the agency is using Carrier IQ for investigative purposes, or whether the documents it has, are related to an investigation of the controversial software.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman says Carrier IQ and Facebook pose the least of your privacy threats. | Also see Paul Venezia's post "The Carrier IQ scandal: Enough is enough"  and check out "Is a privacy backlash brewing?" by InfoWorld's Eric Knorr. | Learn how to secure your systems with Roger Grimes' Security Adviser blog and Security Central newsletter, both from InfoWorld. ]

The request under the Freedom of Information Act was filed Dec. 1 by Michael Morisy, co-founder of MuckRock, a website that helps people file FOIA requests with the government. Morisy asked the FBI for any manuals, documents or other written material it might have related to the FBI's use of data gathered by Carrier IQ.

In response, David Hardy, the section manager of the FBI's Records Management Group said the FBI has in its possession "responsive documents" pertaining to Carrier IQ. However, Hardy said the FBI would not release the documents as requested because doing so would compromise ongoing investigations.

"The material you requested is located in an investigative file which is exempt from disclosure," Hardy wrote in his response which is posted along with the FOIA request on MuckRock.com. "I have determined that the records responsive to your request are law enforcement records; that there is a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding relevant to these responsive records."

Production of such law enforcement records or information ... could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings," Hardy said in rejecting Morisy's request.

The FBI did not respond to a request seeking comment.

The FBI's response leaves unclear "whether the FBI used Carrier IQ's software in its own investigations, whether it is currently investigating Carrier IQ, or whether it is some combination of both," Morisy wrote on MuckRock.

"The response would seem to indicate at least the former, since the request was specifically for documents related directly to accessing and analyzing Carrier IQ data," said Morisy, who plans to appeal the FBI's decision.

Carrier IQ has been in the middle of a major controversy after a security researcher last month published a report saying the company's software enables wireless carriers to conduct surreptitious and highly intrusive tracking of mobile phone users.

Carrier IQ and several wireless carriers and handset makers have admitted to installing the software in handsets, but insist the software is benign and designed primarily to collect data for optimizing network and device performance. Critics of Carrier IQ's software, who include Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, have claimed the software enables keylogging and extensive data capture.

Several lawsuits have already been filed against wireless carriers and handset makers over the issue.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His email address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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This story, "FBI rejects FOIA request for Carrier IQ info" was originally published by Computerworld.

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