Congressman Edward J. Markey (D, Mass) has requested the Federal Trade Commission launch an investigation into the practices of Carrier IQ, the company that offers data tracking services for smartphones. Carrier IQ found itself in the spotlight after reports surfaced that its software tracked user activity — including keystrokes — and transmitted that data back to the company.
Congressman Markey stated in a letter to the FTC:
This software raises a number of privacy concerns for Android, Blackberry, and Nokia users. Consumers neither have knowledge of this data collection, nor what Carier IQ intends to do with this information. As a co-Chair of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, I am a concerned that this practice violates the privacy rights of consumers.
Carrier IQ came under fire when Trevor Eckhart showed that the software was logging all of the keystrokes on his Android-based phone. Carrier IQ denied the accusation, and sued Mr. Eckhart over the claims.
Apple’s iOS was shown to include references to Carrier IQ, too. Apple has since said it stopped using the company’s software with the release of iOS 5, and that users were given the option to opt in when sharing diagnostic data. The opt-in data Apple was collecting was anonymous and never included keystrokes from customer’s activities.
Senator Al Franken chimed in on the topic last week, too, with a letter asking Carrier IQ to explain how and why the company is gathering user data. “It appears that this software runs automatically every time you turn your phone on. It also appears that an average user would have no way to know that this software is running — and that when that user finds out, he or she will have no reasonable means to remove or stop it,” he said in his letter.
Congressman Markey is asking the FTC to respond to his request for an investigation by December 20. The full text of the letter is available as a PDF at his website.