T-Mobile USA Inc. and Motorola Mobility Inc. said some of their mobile devices contain Carrier IQ Inc. software that collects user data, responding to U.S. Senate concerns that customer privacy is in jeopardy.
Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat who leads a Senate subcommittee on privacy, released letters today from the companies explaining their use of the software.
Carrier IQ said in a Dec. 12 report that it found software that allowed collection of some user text message data that was unreadable, and that it doesn’t gather or transmit the contents of e-mails, keystrokes or any details from mobile phone users’ address books. The Mountain View, California-based company also said its software allows collection of URLs, which may include online search histories.
About 450,000 T-Mobile customers use nine devices containing the software that provides data including telephone numbers dialed and received, the Bellevue, Washington-based company wrote in a letter. T-Mobile said it doesn’t use the software to view texts, e-mails, photos, videos or listen to voice messages, log keystrokes or view Internet activity.
The software is used “solely to obtain data about the nearest cell phone tower” when a customer experiences service failures, the company wrote. It doesn’t collect precise customer location data, and “customers expect us to take pro-active steps, including the use of reasonable diagnostic tools, to ensure network reliability and enhance our customers’ device experience,” according to the company.
Motorola Mobility, based in Libertyville, Illinois, said wireless providers specified that the software be installed on four mobile devices, with about 145,000 sold at the end of 2011’s third quarter, without being more specific.
The company said it couldn’t accurately track the number of devices now used by consumers. Carrier IQ didn’t immediately comment.
“Motorola Mobility neither received nor had access to any data collected by the Carrier IQ software, with the exception of approximately 125 devices used for testing the Carrier IQ software implementation,” the company wrote.
Franken’s office released letters on Dec. 15 from AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., HTC Corp. and Samsung Telecommunications America answering his questions about the software.
Sprint has “disabled” the use of the software “so that diagnostic information and data is no longer being collected,” spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge-Walsh said yesterday in a statement.
“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 or to otherwise improve the customer experience or our network operations,” she said.