Carrier IQ software shown to be quietly logging smartphone activity [UPDATED]

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from Omaha, NE
Published: November 30, 2011

Carrier IQ

Many smartphone users often go about using their devices while thinking that what they're doing is their business and that no one can track what they're doing, but one Android developer has posted a video showing a piece of software that is quietly logging his every action. The software is made by a company called Carrier IQ, and it's installed on over over 141 million devices, which includes Android, BlackBerry, older iOS devices, and possibly newer iOS models, too. (It's been reported that Nokia's Symbian products also feature the Carrier IQ software, but Nokia has told Gizmodo that Carrier IQ is not installed on their devices.)

Carrier IQ's software is completely hidden from the end user, and the company recently told Wired that its software is meant to help manufacturers and carriers "understand the mobile-user experience" and track things like dropped calls, app crashes and signal quality, not log keystrokes.  However, as recently discovered by Android dev Trevor Eckhart, it tracks just about everything a user does with their phone, including key presses, sent and received messages, and even encrypted searches, and sends that data back to Carrier IQ servers. Eckhart recorded a video showing the logging in action, which you can see down below.

So what can you do about about Carrier IQ? Not much, unfortunately. There's no way to opt-out of Carrier IQ or anything like that, and the software will continue to log information when the device it's on is in airplane mode. It'll even keep going when a device is no longer connected to a wireless account but is still used with Wi-Fi. There is one thing that Android users can do to rid themselves of Carrier IQ, though, which is rooting their device and replacing the stock ROM with a custom one like CyanogenMod. Once again, you can watch the video below to see Carrier IQ in action. It's a long clip, but definitely worth a watch. We've yet to hear much of a response from manufacturers and carriers on this whole situation, but we'll update you if/when we do.

UPDATE: More details have come out on which products don't feature Carrier IQ's software. First up, Jeffrey Nelson, part of Verizon's Communications team, has said that none of the devices on Verizon include Carrier IQ. That includes Android, BlackBerry, iOS, etc. Additionally, the folks at The Verge have gotten word that none of Google's Nexus devices are running the Carrier IQ software, and that the original Motorola Xoom is also Carrier IQ-free. 

More details have also been dug up about Carrier IQ on iOS products. It's been revealed by  iOS dev chpwn that although the software is still found on newer iOS devices running iOS 5, although it doesn't appear to record quite as much information as the version found on older versions of iOS and other platforms. Also, users that want to turn off Carrier IQ in iOS 5 can turn off "Diagnostics and Usage" found in the System Services portion of the Location Services part of the Settings menu.

Via The Verge (1), (2), (3)Gizmodo, Wired, Android Security Test, @VZWJeffrey, 9to5 Mac, chpwn