MacOS KenDensed: Carrier IQ & Lawsuit Central

Mac OS Ken's Ken RayCarrier IQ’s headaches aren’t going away, and that means Apple and other smartphone makers still have a few headaches in store, too. Apple has a few lawsuit-related headaches to deal with, and there are more Apple television rumors to hurt your head. Good thing Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray isn’t afraid of a little pain. Or so we hear.

Carrier IQ Goes Under the Microscope
Uncle Sam and Uncle Helmut both have questions about Carrier IQ.

Just in case you aren’t familiar with the Carrier IQ thing, it’s software that — theoretically — helps wireless carriers track and maintain quality of service, though one developer seems to have found evidence that it can do oh so much more than that, including, it seems, grabbing and sending off to CIQ’s servers the contents of text messages, phone numbers dialed, websites visited. The little things.

No, we don’t have all the answers yet, but we want ‘em — especially a couple of people on Capital Hill. Late last week comedian-turned-Senator Al Franken wrote to Carrier IQ splainin’ to them that they had a lot of splainin’ to do.

Now Engadget says Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey isn’t even giving the company a chance to splain, choosing instead to ask the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into Carrier IQ. Markey wants the FTC to figure out whether the software and its creators violated the privacy of millions of cellphone users and federal wiretap laws.

As for Uncle Helmut, The Mac Observer says Germany’s Bavarian State Authority for Data Protection has questions… those they are directed at Apple. Hey Apple, ask the Bavarians, how do you use Carrier IQ to track user activity?

TMO says “The request follows reports that smartphone makers have been logging user activities without their knowledge,” though the sense I got was that nobody was actually logging user activities, it was just sort of happening. Blame whoever you’re not.

Apple has kind of sort of already answered these questions, though likely not in as great an amount of detail as the Volks in Data Protection might like. The Cupertino company did say last week that it had stopped supporting Carrier IQ with the release of iOS 5 on most devices, and that it planned to wipe out every bit of it in an upcoming OS update, and besides… it never logged keystrokes the way other phones seem to have done.

Thomas Kranig, head of the Bavarian State Authority for Data Protection, is quoted as saying, “We read in the press about the privacy concerns the software may pose and decided to ask Apple about the details… If Apple decided to cease the use, all the better.”

Hey Germany, could you ask them, please, what devices are still using Carrier IQ? And what made them decide to stop using it just over a month ago? I’ll be your friend.

Meanwhile CNET has a lengthy piece that seems to boil down to this: Carrier IQ is not a keylogger, though there are security concerns around it.mThey’ve got security experts Dan Rosenberg and Rebecca Bace giving the company a pass on the text message thing, with Rosenberg saying,

The application does not record and transmit keystroke data back to carriers… there is no code in Carrier IQ that actually records keystrokes for data collection purposes.

Bace says “(she’s) comfortable that the designers and implementers expended a great deal of discipline in focusing on the espoused goals of the software — to serve as a diagnostic aid for assuring quality of service and experience for mobile carriers.”

So, no keylogging as far as CNET is concerned, though Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ’s VP of marketing, does say that the software can send back to carriers what apps are being used and what URLs are visited, though whether the carriers want that information is up to the carriers.

And even that’s not that big a deal as far as CNET is concerned since there are other ways for carriers to know where people go online using their networks. What bothers CNET is the fact that that information can be stored on a phone without the user knowing it. Quoting the piece, “Privacy concerns arise when a list of URLs is stored on the device and accessible to forensic analysis, when a list of URLs visited on a Wi-Fi network is transmitted, or when encrypted HTTPS URLs are leaked.”

So, if the carriers ask Carrier IQ for a configuration that keeps track of Apps used and websites visited, CNET figures its the carriers who should be questioned by the likes of Franken, Markey, and Kranig, and not Carrier IQ.

Lawyers Being Lawyers
Have you been injured by your cellphone or some bit of software on it? The Law firm of Sianni and Straite is here to help. Or make a buck or two.

S and S sent out a press release yesterday saying that the Delaware-based firm, along with a couple of other firms are buying tickets for the judicial jackpot, instituting a privacy class action suits against Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Carrier IQ.

The firms say that the three cell carriers and four phone makers violated the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

While some say that that’s still up for debate, one of the attorneys leading the action says “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.”

And make a buck or two.

Apple & Motorola: The Big Bucks
Remember a week or two ago when Apple said if it lost its case against Motorola, wherein Motorola accuses Apple of patent infringement, then Apple would like Moto to put up 2-point-7-billion dollars?

Yeah, we all hit that number a little low. Electronista says it turns out Apple could be looking for Motorola to put up about 16-point-2-billion dollars.

Here, if I understand it, is how it works: If Motorola wins, Apple could be barred from selling some of its products. That would lead to a loss of money.

$2.7 billion a year by Apple’s reckoning. Apple could — and would — appeal any loss, and if it won, it could start selling its products again. But what about those years where it couldn’t? Winning on appeal would mean it shouldn’t have been barred from making $2.7 billion a year. And for that, someone would have to pay. In this case Motorola.

And so, Apple argues, Motorola should be expected to set aside as much money as it would take to cover Apple’s potential lost sales. And Motorola thinks the case, and any appeal that might arise from it, could last as long as six years.

If the German court before which this case is being argued agrees with Apple that the loss could be $2.7 billion a year, and it agrees that the whole of the thing could take until 2018, Motorola would be expected to secure roughly $16.2 billion just to have a seat at the table.

Know when to fold them…

Apple: You Win Some, Yo Lose Some
Apple wins and loses, and so does Samsung.

The win for Apple/loss for Samsung comes in France, where The Unofficial Apple Weblog says Samsung has had its request for a preliminary injunction against the sale of the iPhone 4S denied..

Essentially, the piece says, “Samsung’s case against Apple was far to weak to justify the ‘disproportionate’ step of banning the iPhone 4S from France.”

Something ventured, nothing gained.

The Korean electronics maker has been ordered to reimburse Apple roughly $134,000 to cover legal costs, though FOSS Patent’s Florian Mueller says that’s probably a lot less than Apple actually spent defending itself in the land of the jaunty beret.

You win some, you lose some, sometimes on the same day.

While Sammy was being told “non, merci en France,” a judge in Australia was saying, “good on ya mate!”

They say that in Australia, don’t they?

AppleInsider says Samsung has finally got the go ahead to sell the Galaxy Tab 10.1 down under with the highdy-highdy-hi court in Australia denying Apple’s “request to appeal an overturned preliminary injunction of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.”

That opens the door for Samsung to start sales of its 10.1-inch tablet in Australia as soon as next week. Seriously. Just in time for the holidays.

PhatRat’s Patent Problems are Apple’s Patent Problems
Apple’s on the receiving end of another whacky lawsuit.

The Mac Observer says the Cupertino company is being sued by a guy who says he holds patents that are being violated by Apple and Nike’s Nike + iPod fitness kit. Also being sued: a company called PhatRat.

Here’s how it works. Apple and Nike came out with the Nike + iPod thing, then PhatRat stepped up and said, “Hey wait a second… we have patents that are being violated by your Nike + iPod thing.” So Apple did a licensing deal with PhatRat.

Now this other guy, Erik Cherdak, says PhatRat misled the US Patent and Trademark Office. He says Apple + Nike should’ve licensed the tech from him, not from PhatRat.

Also he says Apple and Nike should have known that PhatRat’s patents were invalid, though it’s hard to see how if the guys who actually issue the patents didn’t think so.

Apple TV Talk that Just Won’t Die
The Apple Television talk continues. The website Smarthouse out of Australia has unnamed sources saying Apple will hit with not one, not two, but three TV sets by this time next year.

The sources, said to work at a major Japanese company involved in making the TV, say Apple’s super-smart idiot-boxes will use a new processor set to show up first in the iPad 3, which the sources say is not set to shoe up until the middle of 2012. This despite industry trackers saying Apple’s already building iPad 3s, with plans to launch them in the spring — same as last year and the year before.

I’m sorry, is there any point in trying to figure out the validity of these rumors this far out? Especially when a lot of people — not just me — are still divided on whether Apple will actually do the full-on TV thing?

Three TVs. That’s the beating heart of the most recent rumor, including a 32-inch model, a 55-inch model, and another model either smaller than 32-inches, bigger than 55-inches, or somewhere between 32 and 55 inches.

This is one of those things put a pin in: Google chairman Eric Schmidt saying that Google TV will dictate the TV landscape. Had he said this before the platform’s ill-fated launch last year. that’d be one thing.

He said it yesterday.

You have got to be Schmidtting me.

Electronista says the exec made the “aggressive prediction” at Le Web conference in Paris… “that Google TV would dictate the TV landscape by summer 2012.”

He believes the “majority of televisions you see in stores” should have the Google TV OS inside in the next several months. Which models made by whom? Don’t know, he didn’t say.

I’m not saying he’s wrong. I’m saying please ,oh please, let’s be sure and check that in six or seven months.

Remind me if I forget.

Steve Jobs Museum Online
And finally this week, The Computer History Museum has launched a Steve Jobs exhibit online.

Visitors to the site can read stories covering different periods of Jobs’ life, from high school exploits thorough points in his career both in and out of Apple, all the way through the introduction of the iPad. There are also links to Jobs-related ephemera, including business plans for the Mac, Ads for the Apple I, and a copy of a Homebrew Computer Club newsletter.

There are also links to video presentations, including a 23-minute presentation by Jobs in 1980, and the introduction of the iPod in 2001.

You can browse the articles and artifacts, as well as the rest the Computer History Museum has to offer at the museum’s website.