AT&T, HTC, Samsung and Sprint respond to inquiries about Carrier IQ usage [UPDATED]

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| December 16, 2011

Carrier IQ

Carrier IQ's been the focus of a lot of attention as of late due to questions about its software and what exactly it does and doesn't do, and as a result Senator Al Franken sent a request for more information to Carrier IQ as well as other companies that have acknowledged using the software. So far the Senator has received responses from AT&T, HTC, Samsung and Sprint in which the firms touch on exactly what they're using Carrier IQ's software for as well as which handsets are running it. Here's what they had to say:

  • AT&T: AT&T is quick to claim that it uses Carrier IQ's software "only to collect diagnostic information about its network to improve the customer experience" and not to monitor things like a customer's communications or Internet browsing habits. Additionally, AT&T says that the software provides user location data anytime a device interacts with the network, like when a phone call is sent, received or dropped. The Carrier IQ software is present on about 900,000 devices on AT&T's network, including products like the LG Thrill 4G and Motorola Atrix 2, though it's only active on about 575,000 devices. AT&T adds that Carrier IQ is present on its new LTE-capable handsets like the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, but isn't active on them because it may "interfere with the performance of those devices." Interestingly, AT&T adds that Carrier IQ is used in its Mark the Spot app that allows customers to report on the carrier's network performance, but the software is only present in the Android and BlackBerry versions of the app, not the iOS version.
  • HTC: HTC says that Carrier IQ is installed on around 6.3 million active devices, including the Hero, Amaze 4G, Vivid, and EVO-branded handsets. However, HTC says that it's not the recipient of any data collected by the Carrier IQ software and that its involvement with Carrier IQ is limited to integrating its app with HTC devices as required by the carriers. HTC adds that it's "aware" of the claims of insecure log files in its devices that were demonstrated in Trevor Eckhart's well-known video, saying that it hasn't received any reports of unauthorized access to system log files but that it's investigating the claims and looking into ways to lessen the risk posed to consumers.
  • Samsung: Samsung, like HTC, says that it installs Carrier IQ's software on its devices as requested by the operators and that it doesn't actually receive any customer data. As far as the number of Samsung-made devices that have the Carrier IQ app installed, the company says it's sold around 25 million devices with the software, but it doesn't know how many are actually in use. There are a wide range of feature phones and smartphones made by Samsung that have Carrier IQ's software, including the Epic 4G Touch, Epic 4G, Galaxy Prevail, Instinct, and Instinct HD.
  • Sprint: Sprint is the most avid user of Carrier IQ's software out of the four companies that responded, reporting that there are around 26 million active Sprint devices with the Carrier IQ app on it, with approximately 1.3 million devices actively sending data at any given time. No specific devices were mentioned in Sprint's report, but the carrier notes that products from Audiovox, Franklin, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Novatel, Palmone, Samsung, Sanyo and Sierra Wireless on its network do have the software installed. As for the data that these devices collect, Sprint says that it gathers information to help identify and troubleshoot network issues. Sprint also says that it gathers the URLs of websites visited by users to help troubleshoot loading latencies or errors, but that it already knows that info because of network routing requests.

Obviously that's a lot of information to take in, but it's good to see some of these companies come forward and share some details on their usage of Carrier IQ. This saga will be ending any time soon, though, as there are still companies (Motorola and T-Mobile) that will respond to Senator Franken's inquiries about Carrier IQ. As for the responses he's already gotten, Franken says that he's "still very troubled" about what's going on. He adds that people have a right to control their private info and that he doesn't feel that that right is being respected. It should be interesting to see how the companies using Carrier IQ's software respond to these claims and the effect that the situation will have on their usage of the app and whether or not they alert customers of its presence on their devices. More on this as we get it!

UPDATE: Sprint has issued a statement today to MobileBurn saying that it has decided to disable use of Carrier IQ's software on its phones so that data will no longer be collected. Sprint went on to say that it is "further evaluating options regarding this diagnostic software as well as Sprint's diagnostic needs." As mentioned by MobileBurn, though, it's not clear if the software will actually be removed in future updates.

Via The Verge, Senator Al Franken, AT&T, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, MobileBurn