CarrierIQ Sparks Class Action vs. Apple, Samsung, HTC, More

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Apple has been named in a new class action lawsuit being brought against several companies who have used the controversial CarrierIQ software, including four hardware makers—Apple, Samsung, HTC, and Motorola—and three U.S. carriers—T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T. The suit alleges an “unprecedented breach of trust” and violations of several federal laws.

CarrierIQ Class Action

The suit is the product of three law firms, Sianni & Straite of Wilmington of Delaware, Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy of Edison of New Jersey, and Keefe Bartels of Red Bank, also of New Jersey. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Delaware.

According to a statement released by the law firms, the suit is a reaction to, “the unprecedented breach of the digital privacy rights of 150 million cell phone users.” Despite the noble wording, we should point out that CarrierIQ’s own bragging board claims only 141 million (and change) devices, somewhat short of the 150 million claim in the lawsuit.

The complaint asserts that the defendants violated the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Background

CarrierIQ is software that allows hardware makers and/or carriers to log various activities smartphone users engage in on their mobile devices. It entered the limelight last week in the wake of a security researcher’s report that showed the software logging and possibly transmitting every button push, keystrokes, messages, and GPS data.

He also demonstrated that the software was hidden from the list of running apps available in Android, that it couldn’t be stopped, that the software logged data that was denied to other apps, and that it even logged search terms sent over a secured connection.

CarrierIQ itself denied that its software did many of the things the security demonstrated in a video posted to YouTube, and there has been much pointing of fingers, corporate denials, and other efforts from some of the companies named in this suit to deny any role in the software being present on specific device or to deny some of the specifics in what kind of data was being collected, who controlled it, and whether or not it was being transmitted, and to whom.

Apple

Apple itself said that it had stopped using CarrierIQ with iOS 5, and that it would remove any reference to the software in a future iOS update. The company also said that its use of CarrierIQ has always been opt-in, and that it did not use the software to log, “keystrokes, messages or any other personal information for diagnostic data and have no plans to ever do so.”

Liberty & Idealism?

Two attorneys involved in the class action issued interesting quotes for the suit’s announcement. The first came from David Straite of Sianni & Straighte, who said, “This latest revelation of corporate America’s brazen disregard for the digital privacy rights of its customers is yet another example of the escalating erosion of liberty in this country. We are hopeful that the courts will allow ordinary customers the opportunity to remedy this outrageous breach.”

This differs from some of the “erosion of liberty” rhetoric that has arisen in the last few years in that it is aimed at corporate America, rather than “government.” Of course, it’s just a quote in an announcement for a class action law suit—an area of the legal system not generally known for its idealism, and it remains to be seen how committed to personal liberty the the litigants truly are.

The second quote is from Steve Grygiel, co-counsel for the proposed class, who said, “Anyone who cares at all about their personal privacy, or the broader constitutional right to privacy, ought to care and care a great deal about this case.”

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Comments

ibuck

Well, it has certainly hit the fan and gotten all over everyone, and looks like many, if not all, are deserving.

It will be amusing if this breaks up the cell phone companies. But will the handset makers be convicted as accomplices?

BurmaYank

“But will the handset makers be convicted as accomplices?”

Yes, the picture of these egregious violations of digital privacy rights apparently occurring only on AT&T’s & Sprint’s (&/- TMobile’s) Android (&/- BB, &/- W7M) smartphones, but NONE apparently occurring on Verizon’s often-identical smartphones strongly suggests it was the carriers, NOT the handset makers, who were primarily responsible for the alleged private data thefts.

But, I’m suspicious that Verizon is actually doing, without the help of CarrierIQ, the same sort of private data collecting, mining & merchandizing that its rivals apparently are doing, using similar other embedded hidden software.  If so, then the argument that the phone manufacturers were not primarily involved in embedding each phone’s hidden spyware, will no longer be the logical assumption from the pattern of evidence, and HTC, Samsung, et. al. will thus be exposed as just as guilty as, if not more so than, the carriers, as I suspect.

mlanger

We should all know by now that the only people who make money in class action lawsuits are the lawyers. People in the class get next to nothing. Companies that lose increase prices to cover their losses. How does that help consumers?

iJack

I’m glad there is going to be a lawsuit, if for no other reason than to clear the air some.  I also agree that the “class” plaintiffs are likely to see something like a dime each, if the court concludes there was wrong-doing.  Especially when a couple of Jersey law firms are leading the charge.

I said in a previous thread that I sense that this could go much deeper than manufacturers and carriers.

KWhiting

MLlanger:  I don’t understand HOW you can say “the only people who make money in class action lawsuits are the lawyers.”  I just received a settlement check from a suit some lawyer brought against Ebay.  I got a real check for 7 cents!  And you say the attorneys are the only ones who make money at this!  <G>

iJack

I got a real check for 7 cents!

So me suggesting a dime was overly optimistic, I guess.

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