FBI May Use Carrier IQ

Posted by at 7:32 pm on December 12, 2011

The FBI in a denial of a Freedom of Information Act request may have indirectly confirmed that it uses Carrier IQ’s diagnostic info to track suspects in investigations. The agency told MuckRock that it was reportedly exempt because disclosing its policies surrounding Carrier IQ might jeopardize ongoing investigations. An appeal is underway to try and force the release of information.

The statement doesn’t necessarily confirm that the FBI is actively scanning Carrier IQ data embedded on phones to pursue its cases, but the mention by itself could still see the option of using it on the table. Law enforcement has been known to use triangulation and even fake cell sites, usually with court orders, to either locate a user or intercept data.

It’s doubtful that the FBI is intercepting keystrokes and other direct information through Carrier IQ’s own tools. Company officials in a detailed explanation noted that they don’t permanently log messages, keystrokes, or other actions that could be used to reveal private data. Carriers so far insist they only get call and data drop frequencies and other anonymous, generic behavior, which could help if the FBI wants to prove that a call happened but would still require separate permission to wiretap.

It still raises privacy concerns. While Carrier IQ can’t log data itself and makes information difficult to read otherwise, concerns have existed that other apps might expose it and provide the device’s complete recent history. Cellphone users might be helped by the inconsistent use of Carrier IQ. No Verizon phones use it, while the iPhone and some specific devices don’t use it, even on Carrier IQ users AT&T and Sprint.

The only consistently known use of always-on Carrier IQ is on Android phones outside of Verizon as well as T-Mobile’s BlackBerry lineup.

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