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Friday, December 23, 2011

Sprint Disables Carrier IQ Software on Its Handsets

Wireless carrier says it will no longer collect data from controversial software

By Jaikumar Vijayan (Computerworld)

Sprint, the biggest user of Carrier IQ's software, said Friday it has disabled use of the tool in response to customer concerns.

The wireless carrier is no longer collecting data using the tool and is evaluating its options regarding the software going forward, the company said in an emailed statement.

"We have weighed customer concerns and we have disabled use of the tool so that diagnostic information and data is no longer being collected," the statement said. "At Sprint, we work hard to earn the trust of our customers and believe this course of action is in the best interest of our business and customers."

On Thursday, Sprint disclosed that it had installed Carrier IQ's controversial software on 26 million of its handsets. In a letter to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday, Sprint said it had been using Carrier IQ's software since 2006. The company said it had been using the software only to collect network- and device-related information for quality-of-service-related purposes.

Franken had earlier sent a letter to Sprint, AT&T and several other companies demanding details on their use of Carrier IQ's software. Franken's letter was prompted by security researcher Trevor Eckhart's disclosure last month that Carrier IQ's software could be used to conduct highly intrusive tracking of mobile phone users.

In its response, Sprint maintained that its use of Carrier IQ's software had been limited to reviewing device functionality on its network to better understand issues such as dropped calls and gaps in cellphone coverage.

In its statement Friday, Sprint reiterated many of those same claims. "To be clear, Sprint has not used Carrier IQ diagnostics to profile customers, to serve targeted advertising, or for any purpose not specifically related to certifying that a device is able to operate on our network," the company said. "Sprint does not look at the content of customer messages, emails, photos, videos, keystrokes, etc. using the diagnostic tools offered by Carrier IQ."

Sprint's move could go a long way in allaying customer concerns over the use of Carrier IQ software on its handsets. Sprint is the second major company to say it is disabling use of the software on its handsets. The first was Apple, which said it was disabling Carrier IQ software installed on its iPhones. Apple also plans to issue a software update soon that will let consumers get rid of the software entirely from their handsets.

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