Minnesota Senator Al Franken recently spoke out regarding the privacy concerns of Carrier IQ on mobile devices. Samsung responded by admitting they have 25 million devices with the software installed, and they’ve been using it since 2007. It’s time companies like Samsung understand that consumers aren’t going to tolerate getting lied to any longer.
The ongoing Carrier IQ debacle between mobile manufacturers and consumers has heated up again. Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., voiced his concerns today over the privacy risks of Carrier IQ. Samsung responded directly to Franken’s statement with some unsettling news about the software’s user-base.
According to tech blog Android Central, Samsung claims it has sold approximately 25 million phones containing the Carrier IQ software. Even more disturbing is the timeframe the software has been operating – Samsung admits that it’s been using Carrier IQ since 2007.
Carrier IQ has been heavily criticized by phone owners and the media for its potential to exploit user privacy. The software tracks user data, such as online habits and preferences, and collects it. While Carrier IQ and phone manufacturers claim the data is used to improve mobile device functionality, many people warn how easily the data could be used for other purposes.
The most notorious controversy surrounding Carrier IQ is its stealth. The software usually operates silently on several different phones and devices, under the surface of the user interface. Users often have no idea the software is even operating, and they certainly never consented to its installation or data collection.
Senator Franken spoke with representatives from Carrier IQ about these mounting privacy concerns. Users were uncomfortable with having their online phone usage and other habits collected without their knowledge.
Despite the company’s explanation, Franken remained unconvinced. In his words: The average user of any device equipped with Carrier IQ software has no way of knowing that this software is running, what information it is getting, and who it is giving it to-and that’s a problem… I’m also bothered by the software’s ability to capture the contents of our online searches – even when users wish to encrypt them.
Franken raises valid and disturbing concerns. With Samsung’s admission of Carrier IQ software collecting user data since 2007, privacy is as much a concern now as it’s ever been. It took nearly four years of Carrier IQ operating unbeknownst to mobile users before someone figured it out and broke the news. How else are companies collecting data without user knowledge and consent?
Paranoia aside, phone companies take note – consumers will no longer tolerate these sorts of intentionally exploitive and dishonest business practices. Customers don’t want data like online searches collected without their permission. The discovery of Carrier IQ makes one thing clear – manufacturers care more about how to collect and target their products and advertisements more than they do about the people they’re targeting.
This controversy probably would have never erupted if Carrier IQ and phone companies like Samsung simply disclosed that they were using the software in the first place. Why do companies still not understand a basic life skill most people learn when they’re five years old? Lying won’t get these companies anywhere. Maybe they should give honesty a try, instead.