FBI Admits That It Uses Carrier IQ For Law Enforcement Purposes; Won’t Say How
So remember Carrier IQ? That would be the company that is providing what’s been deemed a root kit on a ton of mobile phones. While the company has sought to downplay the security and privacy risks of its software (to the point of threatening the main researcher behind the revelation), further research suggested that the software likely tracked actions down to the keystroke. Again, Carrier IQ has insisted that its only purpose was to help mobile operators get data and information to help out when users are having problems. For example, it notes the ability to highlight when and how users have dropped calls. And if this was all it really does, then the software might be slightly reasonable (though, the fact that it’s hidden and almost impossible to remove represents a significant problem no matter how benign the software might be).
However, Michael Morisy over at the site Muckrock, decided he might try a different angle to learn about Carrier IQ and whether it was used for surveillance: he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI to find out if and how it uses Carrier IQ data. Not too surprisingly, the FBI won’t provide him any details, but the way in which it turned him down was actually quite telling. Rather than just saying there were "no responsive documents," it instead said that it did have responsive documents "but they were exempt under a provision that covers materials that, if disclosed, might reasonably interfere with an ongoing investigation." That may imply, contrary to Carrier IQ’s suggestions, that its software isn’t for monitoring and spying, that the FBI views it quite differently, and already makes use of some Carrier IQ data. Of course, Morisy notes that there is another possible explanation: the FBI could be investigating Carrier IQ itself following these allegations, and it won’t reveal the data for fear of compromising that investigation. Either way, it at least raises some significant new questions concerning Carrier IQ and how its data is being used.
Update: Carrier IQ has come out with a response insisting that it has never given out info to the FBI. I would imagine that’s true, but it’s besides the point. The issue is whether or not the FBI uses Carrier IQ data that it receives via the mobile operators.