FBI says Carrier IQ files used for "law enforcement purposes"

The FBI disclosed this weekend that data gathered by Carrier IQ software is used by it for "law enforcement purposes", but refused to give details of how it has done so.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Muckrock, the FBI said that it held relevant records but that their release could interfere with pending or prospective law enforcement proceedings.

The request asked for "manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ."

Muckrock's Michael Morisy says he plans to appeal the FBI's decision: "What is still unclear is whether the FBI used Carrier IQ's software in its own investigations, whether it is currently investigating Carrier IQ, or whether it is some combination of both."

Carrier IQ came to public attention after threatening a security researcher who reported on the functionality of its software, which is installed on cellphones by some carriers and handset manufacturers. The software, described by Google chairman Eric Schmidt as a "keylogger", is capable of logging and transmitting everything typed by users, though Carrier IQ insists that it does not do so.

The researcher, Trevor Eckhart, spotted suspicious logging activity and demonstrated how the software reacts when users interacted with their cellphones. Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T all acknowledge using Carrier IQ for diagnostic purposes, but say that they do not use it to maintain records of individual users' activity.

Carrier IQ has not yet returned a call for comment.

Read the request and the FBI denial: FBI: Carrier IQ files used for "law enforcement purposes" [Muckrock]

Photo: Trevor Eckhart


  1. Nothing to see here.

    Move along.

    Nothing suspicious going on.

    But please, put your phone in a drawer or throw a towel over the lens or something when you make out with that stuffed pangolin. It’s really freaking out Agent Smithers.

  2. More and more I am reminded of a movie called “The President’s Analyst”.  This prophetic movie predicted the friendship of the US and Russia, the rise of the surveillance state and the cell phone, amongst other things.  (If you have never seen it, you need to. One of the funniest bits of satire from the 60s.)

    “Are you saying that every phone in the US is tapped?  This isn’t Russia or China!”

    1. Alan, if I purchase “The President’s Analyst”, won’t that put me on some government watchlist just by doing so?

      (I’m only half-kidding)

          1. Considering the viewpoints and slant of the editors and regular commenters here regarding issues like this, I would really be surprised if we weren’t already on some sort of watch list. You get sent to the top of the list if you’re also a regular on Slashdot (which surely has its own separate list as well).

      1. The version on DVD is about as complete as possible. It has the correct music and aspect ratio. It is missing one short scene which is considered lost as far as I can tell. (I have never seen a print with that scene.) The VHS version has the music replaced which destroys far too much of the pacing of the film. (Especially the scene in the field.)  The DVD version has a nice print and is well worth getting. No extra features, but at $6.49 it is well worth getting.

        1. BTW, the one missing scene from the President’s Analyst was removed by the director, not the studio.

    1. We should start a fucking support group.  Just try that line about “encrypt anything you wouldn’t send on a postcard” at a party and see how many takers you get.

          1. Well, hollowed out skulls of their enemies usually sufficed. It was years later (at least two) that Charles M. Dixie got the idea to make them from paper.

    2. People think I’m paranoid because I put a piece of tape over the cameras on my iphone/imac/ipad.

      I still think you’re paranoid.  The green light in your iMac is hardwired to turn on when it gets signal.  Unless agents have disassembled your Mac and replaced the wiring, you’ll know if your camera is on or not by the green light.

      Then again, maybe agents have gotten into your home, disassembled your Mac and maybe they are watching you naked right now.   Ok… that’s it!  Do this right now and permanently disable your camera!!  Open Terminal then do these commands!!  Before it’s too late!

      sudo rm -f /System/Library/QuickTime/QuickTimeUSBVDCDigitizer.component /s

      1. …you’ll know if your camera is on or not by the green light.

        So long as you’re constantly looking at it.

        1. You see, I’ve set up another laptop with its camera on all the time just watching my other laptop’s green light.   So I know it doesn’t turn on whenever my back is turned.  ;D

          Kidding aside, I really think robdobbs is being watched and needs to give me his iMac so I can properly dispose of it while he buys a new one that hasn’t been compromised by agents (yet).

  3. Just a note…

    Amazon has The President’s Analyst on DVD for less than $7!  Every paranoid BoingBoing reader should own a copy. 

  4. i’m not very good with computer things…anyone want to provide a link to a) encryption software and b) a page that explains how to use the encryption software in easy-to-understand language?

    1. Talk to your friendly neighborhood geek about installing the latest “AOSP” ROM on your android device, if indeed that’s what you’ve got. Otherwise check out Truecrypt for your desktop encryption needs (again, your local nerd knows how to use it).

      Otherwise that tinfoil hat and log cabin in the wilds of british columbia is looking pretty tempting now, eh? Let me know if you decide to go this route, I might be wanting to split the cost of the land & cabin with someone…

  5. Hold on a minute. Muckrock, the source that filed the FOIA request, makes it very clear in this article that the FBI response may indicate nothing more than that they are conducting an investigation into allegations of possible criminal misconduct by Carrier IQ.

  6. Yay spy state well on the way!..just wait for it to get shown being used for political motivations.

  7. The unfortunate thing here is how long it took before someone discovered this, particularly in “open” phones like Android. It seems the promise of open source leading to greater security failed here, and it failed hard.

    1. I knew about this over a year ago. The description of the custom ROM I was installing said something along the lines of “CarrierIQ removed – no more spying, and one less running service = better battery life! :D”

    2. Don’t confuse open-source with projects like Cyanogen and custom proprietary closed phone builds that you buy at retail.

      1. The point is that this is a marketing problem.  FOSS advocates have long championed the model as solving the problem of spyware, rootkits, etc.

        Now Android comes along and it’s said to be “open source.”  Problem is, Android is open but not free — that is, it’s open for the phone makers and mobile service providers, but NOT open downstream for the end user.

        The blame for this I think belongs to Google for promotion Android as something it’s not — free software.

        1. again, you are mistaken.
          Android IS open(-ish) and IS free.
          Retail phones that general consumers buy are neither.
          If you really wanted to, you could build your own Android phone/device and it will be 100% real android device.

          Don’t blame Google or Android for the shit carriers and phone mft do with that project.

          1. But all Google would have to do is have a license that prevents what the phone makers and carriers are doing.  (GPLv3, for example.)

            This is the key difference between “open” and “free.”

        2. This is really more of a reply to your later comment (reply to Mxx), but there’s no reply button there.

          Google could have (and I agree, they should have) adopted a license structure that prevents the phone makers and carriers from doing all the crap that they’re doing. But if they had, the carriers in particular would not have gotten on board and Android would have gone nowhere.

          Google had to make a compromise, and it’s unfortunate (why Apple didn’t have to compromise – at least, not as much – is a different argument).

        3. If you cannot replace it with a version you yourself have compiled, it’s not Free/open source software. It’s an application that you have received pre-compiled, any intermediary can have put any nasty thing on it. I run Cyanogenmod.

  8. Reason #897 to never, ever, ever believe a corporation when it tells you that it’s only collecting your information ‘to improve their service.’ Once data is collected it will /always/ end up being used by law enforcement.

  9. …aaand, USA is championing democracy and no censorship to china, north korea and other despots ?? it’s like the pot calling kettle black. US is increasingly becoming what it supposedly hates.

  10. “FBI said that it held relevant records but that their release could interfere with pending or prospective law enforcement proceedings.” In addition their release could cause the sun to be extinguished and the terrorists to “win”.

    “Pending or prospective law enforcement proceedings,” couldn’t this be said about releasing ANY information about ANYTHING? Sorry, we can’t tell you how much toilet paper the FBI uses. The release of that information could interfere with pending or prospective law enforcement proceedings.

    @Apai – “US is increasingly becoming what it supposedly hates.” So true. So sad.

  11. There’s this thing about rights that everyone seems to forget, if you expect to have any, you have to defend them; ask government to and they will take them away to protect them. That being said, we have spent years researching this whole problem and it’s not just because of the type of phone you have, the software installed on it, or who’s operating system controls your phone, the core of the problem is in the way the cellular networks function. All cell phones are tracked real time, and all of them can be compromised allowing your devices microphone, camera, or GPS to be used by unauthorized persons without your knowledge. In addition the contents of your entire phone including the text messages, emails, phone book, confidential log in information etc can be accessed with or without the phone being connected to any network.   After realizing the extent of the problem we set out to create a device which would allow the owners of these devices to control when, where and by whom the device is accessed as of this month we are making this device available to you, me and everyone else concerned about their privacy. See us at thecaseforprivacy.com for more information.

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