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T-Mobile deploys Carrier IQ on BlackBerry, others

RIM doesn't install Carrier IQ on BlackBerry devices--but T-Mobile does. Plus, more questions about the infamous Carrier IQ video!

A Carrier IQ representative says the screen in the Trevor Eckhart video is showing logs from a separate Android debugger program and not what is being recorded or transmitted by Carrier IQ
A Carrier IQ representative says the screen in the Trevor Eckhart video is showing logs from a separate Android debugger program and not what is being recorded or transmitted by Carrier IQ
Trevor Eckhart

The more the subject of Carrier IQ gets stirred, the more questions arise.

Last week, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion distanced itself from the Carrier IQ controversy saying:

RIM is aware of a recent claim by a security researcher that an application called "CarrierIQ" is installed on mobile devices from multiple vendors without the knowledge or consent of the device users. RIM does not pre-install the CarrierIQ app on BlackBerry smartphones or authorize its carrier partners to install the CarrierIQ app before sales or distribution. RIM also did not develop or commission the development of the CarrierIQ application, and has no involvement in the testing, promotion, or distribution of the app. RIM will continue to investigate reports and speculation related to CarrierIQ."

But a list of T-Mobile handsets that use Carrier IQ published by TmoNews has three BlackBerry models on it: BlackBerry 9900, 9360 and 9810.

A RIM representative told CNET she would look into the matter. A T-Mobile spokesman, however, confirmed to CNET that his company places Carrier IQ on those phones. The spokesman had no further comment beyond pointing to a statement the company released last week:

T-Mobile utilizes the Carrier IQ diagnostic tool to troubleshoot device and network performance with the goal of enhancing network reliability and our customers' experience. T-Mobile does not use this diagnostic tool to obtain the content of text, email or voice messages, or the specific destinations of a customers' internet activity, nor is the tool used for marketing purposes.

That list of T-Mobile devices using Carrier IQ also includes the HTC Amaze 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Exhibit II 4G, T-Mobile myTouch by LG, T-Mobile myTouch Q by LG and LG DoublePlay.

The T-Mobile document says the Carrier IQ software is used to determine why a battery is not holding a charge, whether dropped calls are the result of a handset problem or network failure, as well as to help troubleshoot the failure of an app.

Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken, who heads a Senate privacy panel, is asking wireless companies and hardware makers what data they are collecting with Carrier IQ and why. A Sprint spokesman confirmed to CNET today that the company has received a letter. Franken also reportedly sent letters to AT&T, HTC, Samsung and Sprinte Nextel.

Carrier IQ says the software is designed to help carriers troubleshoot network failures and other problems, such as when calls drop or batteries get quickly depleted. But Android developer Trevor Eckhart insists it is a "rootkit" that logs keystrokes and invades consumer privacy. Several security researchers disagree with that assessment, including one who has done an in-depth analysis of Carrier IQ.

Part of the confusion over what Carrier IQ really does seems to stem from a video Eckhart created that shows text messages, Google searches and keystrokes that Carrier IQ appears to be logging.

However, Carrier IQ VP Andrew Coward told CNET the video is misleading. Eckhart's screen in the video is actually displaying a debug log via an Android utility called logcat--software that is unrelated to Carrier IQ, Coward said. Logcat allows users to view debugging notices generated within Android.

CNET has created an FAQ with more details on what Carrier IQ is and how it works.