Wayne Rash

RIM Comes Clean Over Carrier IQ

Mobile operators are shamefully silent about monitoring software, but BlackBerry-maker RIM’s response is exmplary, says Wayne Rash

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What’s nice about the BlackBerry approach is that it’s entirely supported by the existing software management tools. All you have to do is locate the app and direct the BlackBerry delete it.

This makes sense. After all, RIM takes the security of the BlackBerry very seriously. Allowing a piece of software to exist on its devices that has the capability, whether it’s used or not, to record keystrokes, text messages and email as well as location data compromises the security of BlackBerry devices in a way RIM has never tolerated. RIM has resisted pressure from India, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and others that threatened to ban RIM products if the company didn’t turn over its data encryption keys.

RIM stood its ground and refused to compromise its customers’ data privacy. It was willing to risk the ban rather than break its promise to its customers. After facing down the intelligence services of several nations, why would RIM cave in to a couple of wireless carriers that install spyware?

Carriers have failed to explain their position

For its part, Carrier IQ has tried hard to explain its position by issuing a statement claiming it’s the carriers that want to capture the information. Carrier IQ has consistently said it doesn’t receive any of the data in question. So far, it seems that the concerns addressed to Carrier IQ are more properly addressed to the carriers.

Unfortunately, none of the carriers contacted by eWEEK provided a useful response. T-Mobile repeated its original statement; the other carriers had no comment.

In a brief statement, Carrier IQ defended how its software works.

“Carrier IQ is pre-installed on RIM devices by Network Operators to help solve problems consumers find on their devices,” Andrew Coward, vice president of marketing at Carrier IQ wrote in a statement. “By removing Carrier IQ, Network Operators will no longer be able to offer a high level of service in the event that customers call for assistance.”

If T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T were going to collect any sort of data from customers’ smartphones, then those companies should have revealed exactly what they were collecting and what was being done with the data and given the customer the ability to opt out.

None of the carriers that use Carrier IQ has done this.

By contrast, Verizon, which does collect information from customers, discloses this fact in its privacy statement, which includes an opt-out provision. There’s no reason the other carriers couldn’t do the same. There’s also no reason that the carriers that use such software couldn’t adopt a policy of transparency instead of stonewalling about information that will eventually come out anyway.

Wayne Rash
Author: Wayne Rash
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