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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My phone isn’t spying on me... and yours probably isn’t, either

Mark Bridge writes:

“Mobile operators track who you call. In other news, banks know how much money is in your account and utility companies know where you live.”

At the end of a week in which so-called ‘spyware’ on mobile phones had been creating headlines, this tweet from Benedict Evans offered an alternative perspective.

The story started when security researcher Trevor Eckhart pointed out that diagnostic software from Carrier IQ was installed on millions of smartphones and could - theoretically - be used to monitor an individual’s usage. Carrier IQ threatened legal action before withdrawing its threat and apologising.

But what does this mean to customers in the UK?

Very little, it seems.

Some versions of the Apple iPhone may have Carrier IQ installed, although the iOS software appears not to monitor the keyboard, only sends reports to Apple and can be switched off.

Most other reports have been outright denials. HTC says the software is on some US devices but not on any European phones. O2, Orange and Vodafone say they don’t install the software on any UK devices and don’t believe it’s pre-installed on anything they sell. Google says its Android-based Nexus One, Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus handsets aren’t affected. Nokia and BlackBerry say they don’t install or authorise Carrier IQ for their phones.

Yes, there are loopholes in some of those statements - for example, just because RIM doesn’t install an app doesn’t mean that a network doesn’t do it later - but I’d say they were largely reassuring.

Perhaps most importantly - and, as you know, I’m not a lawyer - Carrier IQ appears to be illegal under European law. Again, it’s no guarantee… but I’d say we Brits don’t have too much to worry about.

Well, not when it comes to Carrier IQ, anyway. Now, let’s talk about the Euro…

[More details: BBC News; TechCrunch.com; guardian.co.uk; Forbes.com; TheVerge.com; arstechnica.com]

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Author: The Fonecast
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