8 companies hit with lawsuit over Carrier IQ software

It's the third lawsuit to be filed since privacy controversy started last week

Apple is one of eight companies that have been named in another class-action lawsuit filed over the use of Carrier IQ software in mobile handsets.

The lawsuit was filed last Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware and accuses Carrier IQ, three wireless carriers, and four handset makers of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

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The complaint (download pdf) was filed on behalf of four individuals, who are described in court papers as owners of mobile handsets with Carrier IQ software on them. Those named in the lawsuit besides Apple and Carrier IQ, are AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, HTC, Samsung and Motorola. All of these companies have admitted that their handsets include Carrier IQ software.

The carriers have insisted that the software is being used only for network diagnostics purposes while the handset makers have claimed that they integrated Carrier IQ in their devices only because the carriers specifically asked them to.

This is at least the third publicly known lawsuit seeking class-action status that has been filed over the Carrier IQ issue since a major controversy over its software erupted late last month.

Carrier IQ, based in Mountain View, Calif., sells software designed to help wireless service providers and device makers identify and diagnose service and quality-related problems, such as dropped calls and battery drain. The software can be used to collect data for analyzing service quality, device quality, and what Carrier IQ calls mobile customer experience.

The company has been in the middle of a raging controversy after a security researcher last month said the software could be used to conduct surreptitious and highly intrusive tracking of Android, BlackBerry, and other smartphone users. The researcher, Trevor Eckhart, described the software as a keystroke logging rootkit that is hard-to-detect, hard-to-remove and programmed to run by default on millions of handsets without the users' knowledge.

Carrier IQ and the wireless carriers have disputed that description, and even some security analysts have said it is inaccurate to describe the company's software as a keylogger and a rootkit.

Even so, the concerns raised by Eckhart's disclosure don't show any signs of abating. Questions about its use by carriers have been raised by U.S. lawmakers by regulators in Europe. On Friday, Rep. Edward Markey, (D-Mass.), expressed concerns over the software and asked the FTC to investigate the company.

Apple, which plans to issue an update to remove Carrier IQ software from all its iPhone handsets, on Monday declined to comment on the lawsuit citing the ongoing litigation. Carrier IQ said it has not seen or been served on any lawsuit, and therefore could not comment on the allegations.

An AT&T spokesman said the company did not have a comment on the lawsuit. Sprint, HTC, Samsung and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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 e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com. Read more about privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.

This story, "8 companies hit with lawsuit over Carrier IQ software" was originally published by Computerworld.


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