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Smartphone 'Spy' Program Denies Giving Info to FBI -- But Do Cell Providers?


"We would refer them to the carriers..."

Yesterday, we reported that the FBI denied a FOIA request on the grounds that releasing the information it had about Carrier IQ, a smartphone diagnostic tracking program, could jeopardize ongoing investigations. In doing so, the agency may have revealed that it somehow obtains and uses information being tracked by the program, which was revealed as secretly installed on millions of smartphones in recent months.

Although the FBI hasn't issued a statement over whether or not it uses the type of information collected by Carrier IQ, the software company itself has come out to say it doesn't provide said content to the agency. The Wall Street Journal has more:

Carrier IQ has never provided any data to the FBI. If approached by a law enforcement agency, we would refer them to the network operators because the diagnostic data collected belongs to them and not Carrier IQ.

Carrier IQs data is not designed to address the special needs of law enforcement. The diagnostic data that we capture is mostly historical and won’t reveal where somebody is and what they are doing on a real-time basis.

Still, that doesn't mean the FBI isn't getting its hands on the information collected from the smartphone provider that subscribes to the program. The Wall Street Journal notes that in an interview with with AllThingD’s John Paczkowski, Carrier IQ said it would refer law enforcement to the provider if information was requested:

You say you are not permitted to analyze, resell or reuse any of the information gathered for your own purposes, or to pass it to any third party, unless required by law. Do you know if law enforcement uses Carrier IQ data, and in what manner?

Lenhart: We have been approached by law enforcement about using our technology, and every time it’s happened, we’ve determined that that’s not an appropriate use of it. A lot of data that we capture is historical, so if you really want to find out where somebody is and what they’re doing, our technology isn’t going to give you that. Remember, this is diagnostic data. And we don’t share it with anyone.

But you do say that you would hand over data if required by law.

Lenhart: We would refer them to the carriers, because the diagnostic data collected belongs to the network operators, not Carrier IQ.

Currently, under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, law enforcement can obtain digital information, including email and cellphone records, without a warrant. It is unclear whether the metrics carriers can receive from the Carrier IQ program -- which the company has said includes battery life and dropped calls -- would be included under that law.

Carrier IQ admitted recently that due to a bug in its program, some unintentional tracking of text messages could have taken place. It is an issue the company is resolving.

[H/T Gizmodo]

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