03
Dec
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Amid the turmoil surrounding Carrier IQ, the company's VP of Marketing, Andrew Coward, has come forward in a series of interviews with a few clarifications.

For those not in the loop, the controversy around Carrier IQ is based on developer Trevor Eckhart's findings which indicated that Carrier IQ's software was indeed collecting a vast array of information, and his demonstration showing that said data could be read using a simple command – one that could be executed by any malicious app with access to logcat. This data includes location information, SMS messages, and key taps.

Before we dive into Coward's remarks on the issue of security (and why he says CIQ is not to be blamed for insecure logs), it's important to look at how CIQ actually functions on a device. The software can either be built directly into the OS of a device, or installed by the OEM or carrier after the fact. If it is installed separately from the OS, CIQ's software doesn't have direct access to sensitive information. It's up to manufacturers to utilize an API created by CIQ to get information from the device to CIQ's software. In some cases, this data also appears to be getting dumped into logs readable by apps that can access a device's logcat log.

Coward explained to The Verge just how Carrier IQ operates, implying that the blame for data leakage rests entirely with manufacturers (HTC is implied here), because they leak sensitive data to the system log for no reason whatsoever.

Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ: When a piece of information is sent to us from the operation system, we do not need it to go through that log file. There is no value to us in reading a keylog file, that's not how our software works.
The Verge: That is not your log file?
Coward: That logfile is not our logfile. It's a standard, Android system logfile. What goes in that logfile is up to the manufacturer. ...So, you would hope in a shipping device, you wouldn't get very much information to go in there.
The Verge: [...] I'm trying to understand why a manufacturer, in order to give you certain information, is actually logging keystrokes. I want to separate those two things. It's logging it, putting it into this file, and then giving it to you?
Coward: What should be happening, is it should just be giving it to us through the API. What appears to be happening is that it's giving it to us and making a copy of what it gave to us in the log file.

It's worth noting, however, that CIQ's software is not without its own temporary log file. No details were given about the security or encryption of this log, but CIQ stated that it is not stored in plain text, and that it is continually overwritten with new data (no more than a week old). While CIQ does technically monitor key taps, the company emphasizes that the software monitors for "short codes," filtering out data that doesn't represent an important system command or specialized carrier command, ostensibly before the information is ever transmitted anywhere.

Coward compared the selective monitoring of data to a large fishing net in an interview with The Register, explaining the filtering process in terms of a sea-bound fishing operation:

"To answer your point, we're on a fishing boat out at sea and we're catching fish that are too small and they go back in, and they go back in for two reasons: One, the holes in the net don't catch small fish, i.e. the filtering, and/or the fish is the wrong type and it gets thrown out of the boat, hopefully while it's still alive."

While Coward's statements are both informative and interesting, there has yet to be any mention of why CIQ is not opt-in, or why it lacks opt-out functionality. This is still an important question for many users, as the idea of having any information logged (temporarily or otherwise) sounds suspicious and threatening. HTC, according to The Verge, has already stated that it is "investigating the option to allow customers to opt-out."

Coward, in his interview with the Register, was sure to specify that CIQ has no rights to any collected data, as it is under the control of carriers and manufacturers, although it is often processed in CIQ's data centers.

For more information, and to read more of what Andrew Coward had to say in response to the hubbub, visit the links below.

Via The Verge and The Register

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Jeremy

    My understanding is, we aren't CIQ's customer and therefore the End User does not get the opt in opt out choice. That is up to CIQ's customer, the Carrier.

    • tk

      Sounds like a good reason to sue carriers and manufacturers to require all phones to be unlocked so we can remove crap we don't like that invades our privacy. We should have full control of our

  • BoB1673

    this company needs to be brought to a complete halt !

  • gregwlsn

    If logging keystrokes leads to research that gets me 20meg down and 8meg up, go for it! Guess what, the carriers already have our sensitive data. It's called a credit check.

    • http://TheAndroidSource.com Chris Gustafson

      But but, they will know who I am texting and what is in my text.....oh wait, they already know since it goes through their F*****G network!

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        The carriers don't see encrypted traffic that software like CIQ could potentially see unencrypted.

        More importantly, vulnerabilities or simple stupidity like logging private data to shared logs could expose it to other apps, which has been shown first with Htcloggers and now with CIQ itself.

        Is it not reason enough to have this kind of stats as opt-in, or at least a way to disable it if you don't want it?

        • http://TheAndroidSource.com Chris Gustafson

          They can un-encrypt it though if they need to.

          The software itself is not a problem if what Andrew Coward is saying is true. Patch the problem OEMs are creating and move on.

          Carriers seriously don't care what is in your text messages, emails, contacts, etc. If they want to stalk you they can without CIQ, they have your name, address, credit card and for a lot of customers, all of your contacts backed up.

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          There's no way for them to decrypt https traffic, otherwise it'd be a man-in-the-middle attack or a serious problem in the security model, but again, the problem is not just what the carrier can see, it's what malicious apps can see due to weaknesses in CIQ-related implementations.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      The problem with exposing private data to potentially malicious apps has nothing to do with what the carrier uses the info for - it's an oversight by the manufacturer, at least according to CIQ, as the data doesn't need to be in logcat logs at all.

      • Deltaechoe

        That is assuming CIQ is telling the entire truth or just trying to play the PR Patchup game that many less than ethical businesses are guilty of.

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          Right, my point was that crap like this on our devices can be full of holes exposing our data to malicious apps, and that's a big problem.

    • Ray

      Wow. You're officially the one and only person defending these assholes. What's next for you, a nice essay on why Sandusky is a great guy?

    • Bedammit

      While were logging keystrokes..
      Someone may actually have your password to your bank account.
      Brilliant!
      Youve got fast Internet and no cash.

      congrats!

  • BeDammit

    What morons...
    To get the ouput you put the phone in debug mode...
    Once you put the phone in debug mode the apps that send output to debug write to logcat.

    You'd think that Carrier IQ would explain that correctly and not say..
    Its writing it to a file for some reason.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      The debug level doesn't really matter, their point is this data should have never been in the logs, period.

      • BeDammit

        Thats my point.. They CIQ enabled debugging output in their build

        • http://www.stevenmattera.com Steven Mattera

          Not necessarily, It's quite possible when HTC was implementing CarrierIQ's API that a HTC programmer had it outputting to Logcat.

          However there is still the issue as Artem has pointed out that CarrierIQ still has the data without the end-user's consent. If for some reason CarrierIQ became compromised millions and millions of users would have their personal data exposed.

  • billyJoeBob

    What I see above is that CIQ clearly admits that their software DOES log everything. This would mean they log every site you visit, the login and password for every site you visit. Your email accounts. Evey credit card used along with the exp date and CVV2 #. And everything else you think may be personal or confidential. He's also stating that it's HTCs fault that they got caught. They hide their logs much better and would have got away with this.

    • Joe Nobody

      no, what they said is they can *see* everything, but they don't log it. it's the manufacturers who incorrectly configure CIQ and make it log to the system log.

  • p3ngwin

    i have yet to hear a reason for *WHY* they need this data.

    we read about what data they *want*, and don't want, and that sometimes it's the network or the device maker's fault they aren't getting the *right* data....but *WHY* do they want this data so much that it requires logging every keystroke in an effort to "catch it" ?

    they talk about the "log" being secure or not, and yet we haven't heard why the log exists in the first place. what is it used for?

    we still have not heard the WHY.

    why CIQ, do you need such access to every move i make on my phone, what are you trying to "catch" that somehow benefits me and requires you such access to my device and interactions ?

    • josh

      Thank you. Someone please answer this. It's the first question that truelly needs an answer

  • Joachim

    This company needs to shutDieb as soon as possible.

  • Sorin

    So if I paid hundred of dollars every year to protect my privacy, by buying expensive self encrypting hard drives, internet tunneling services, antivirus programs, routers with better firewalls, my own server to keep my e-mail safe from other e-mail providers that might store my messages even after deletion and so forth. If I spent all this time and money to protect my privacy, and then this Carrier IQ undone everything I did and snooped in and exposed most of my sensitive communication in easy to access logs and even on their proprietary servers, to me I think that I have a good reason to sue them...

  • lincthra

    So... basically what he's saying is: "Look, if the manufacturers hadn't screwed up, you just never would have caught us. Then none of this problem would exist because you'd all be blissfully ignorant to our dirty deeds. It's all THEIR fault because THEY got us caught!"?! So... they don't see the problem as the privacy they're invading, but rather they see the problem is that people CAUGHT them invading privacy?! If you're trying desperately not to GET caught, doesn't that in and of itself imply that SOMEWHERE along the lines you knew what you were doing was wrong?

  • CIQ SUCKS

    This entry was logged. It's not needed in any way to improve my experience. Everything they could learn from it can be learned into other ways without the information gained in this interaction. And they did it without my knowledge, without my option, and without me being able to stop it without voiding my all important warranty. They did it sloppy, and in collusion with 2 other businesses I am financially tied to. IT SMELLS FISHY. So the fishing analogy would be funny if it didn't make me feel like a rape victim who's assailant claims it's actually the frat, or the colleges fault. SHUT THEM DOWN. (Did you log THAT CIQ?)

  • dward2828

    Is anyone else struck by the irony of us being massive Google supporters and complaining about privacy? If we could opt out of everything, Google would make no money at all. Let the carriers collect their data. Maybe we should be notified in the carriers' small print, but they're welcome to log my stats if it's useful. They need to collect stats to create better plans and price structures. Manufacturers need to know how people use their devices so they can design future products. As long as my content is secure, I don't care. Is CarrierIQ prevalent in the UK?

    • josh

      How are those better plans and benefits working out for you?

    • p3ngwin

      it's about "choice", and in this case the lack of choice because the customer is unaware of such tracking. like you said "If we could opt out of everything, Google would make no money at all...", and that's the point.

      with Google and other companies it's your CHOICE to "opt-in/out" to trade your data for services, yet with CarrierIQ there is no choice because it is completely hidden and undisclosed.

      nobody would have known were it not for inquisitive people that discovered it.

      Google may track everything, but they're one of the more transparent companies.
      heck i still get reminder Emails telling me i'm sharing my location through Google's "Latitude". Google even give you access to your location history to show you how much time you spend at home, work, etc full of interesting stats.

      Google didn't have to remind me, but they want to build trust, and that's what CarrierIQ don't have by installing spyware on people's phones. it's blatantly deceitful, and it's difficult to trust a deceitful entity that they're doing it for your benefit.

      where's the choice in the matter for the customer ?

      "As long as my content is secure, I don't care", and that's another concern, because we aren't told in the first place what the purpose is or even *IF* we want to opt-in, we have little knowledge about where that data goes and the consequences of sharing it willingly or otherwise.

      we simply are told NOTHING.

  • http://suijurisforum.com indio007

    Carrier IQ bragged about being able to record all sorts of data in their marketing. The are trying to rewrite history now.

    http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/mobile-phone/3322625/carrier-iqs-own-marketing-claims-undercut-its-defense/

    from their online datasheet

    "Capture a vast array of experience
    data including screen transitions,
    button presses, service interactions
    and anomalies"

    "“Zero delay” data capture, eliminates
    the delays inherent in other methods
    such as focus groups"

    "View application and device feature
    usage, such as camera, music,
    messaging, browser and TV"

    • Indirect

      Omg, that is just so unbelievably perfect LOL

  • http://none João M.

    happy that i am with cyanogenmod and do not have that crap installed

  • djembeman

    Hey, so I guess the good thing about all this is that Verizon says they don't have this software installed on their phones and I ran two different apps from the Market that can check for it.
    Lookout made one and Voodoo made one. Check it out!

    https://market.android.com/details?id=com.lookout.carrieriqdetector
    https://market.android.com/details?id=org.projectvoodoo.simplecarrieriqdetector

  • Big Al

    privacy is only 1 issue.

    people are not thinking about how much power these processes use. battery is precious, especially in the new 4g devices.

    also is this data that is transmitted part of our data plans? if not how do they separate it out?

    • djembeman

      Yeah! I'm on unlimited data, but imagine that part of your data usage is going toward a company spying on you with built in applications. Go Verizon! No Carrier IQ!!!!

      • Eric Sorensen

        Verizon must use other software then, because they would love this info to figure new price gouging sources...

  • Raptor0065

    Who the F&%* said your fishing boat was allowed in my ocean in the first place?

    • Jose

      LOL! Good one.
      But actually, the ocean is not ours. We are merely swimming in it. At the mercy of whatever is in it.

      PS: Am I the only one chuckling at how this CIQ guy is unfortunately named "Coward"? lol

      • Bryan

        no I think we all are

  • grokga

    I too wonder about how much power this app is taking, if it's running non-stop in the background.

    I also wonder if anything like this is mentioned in the contract I signed with Sprint.

  • Sorin

    So far we know for sure that the software called Carrier IQ that runs in certain phones is intercepting a lot of data including keystrokes, text messages, URLs among many other things.
    What is NOT clear and should be made clear is:

    1. Is this information stored anywhere in the phone? I'm not saying stored as in a small RAM buffer. I am referring to stored as in log files or databases.

    2. Is this information transmitted outside the phone? (like over the Internet, to Carrier IQ or someone else)?

    3. For both 1. and 2. is the information encryted or not? Also is it accessible to/readable by other entities (processes, apps, carriers, Internet providers, phone manufacturers etc.)?

    Also these answers should not be provided by Carrier IQ. They should be based on analyzing the phones and the communication these phones are making and by having specialists look at the Carrier IQ source code. This would make it very clear where Carrier IQ stands legally!

    • Jose

      lol did you even read the article?

      • Sorin

        I did. It's all different people making different statements based on their personal opinion/interest, and journalists/bloggers writing about their own assumptions. The only thing I've seen black on white is that YouTube demo video that shows how Carrier IQ software intercepts keystrokes, text messages, secure URLs among other type of data. What it actually does with it, I don't really know.

  • Mark

    All the blame is being shifted to the carrier. CIQ blames HTC, the manufacturer, and the carrier. Manufacturers say they only put the software on the phone at their customers, the carriers, request. It does seem it's squarely on the carriers shoulders, since Verizon seems to be safe from these lawsuits. I'll bet somebody there is happy they didn't go with Carrier IQ.

    Also, he's speaking out to the community, I'd hardly label him a coward. Jeesh.

  • trjcasper

    Even if use of the Carrier IQ software is covered under the contract we have with our carrier, it doesn't explain the link between Carrier IQ and Nielsen. Nielsen has partnered with Carrier IQ for mobile data collection but no mention has been made yet of what data they plan to get without our knowledge or consent. Who else is contracted for data collection with Carrier IQ?

  • http://stuarthalliday.com Stuart Halliday

    My HTC Desire HD has no CarrierIQ.
    But then I only buy unlocked vanilla phones. So if you've got CarrierIQ. Blame your Telecom provider and yourself for allowing them to bundle a phone with bloatware!

  • Mark Terry II

    Every time I read Coward's fishing boat and net comment all I can think of is the young Flint Lockwood from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, screaming, "I don't understand fishing metaphors!"

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