Unbeknownst to their owners, many smart phones used in the United States have a program on them known as Carrier IQ. News has now broken disclosing not just the existence of the program but also detailing what Carrier IQ can do. As it turns out, the program is able to transmit personal data about the usage of the phone, including what locations the user has been in, what he or she has searched for on the Internet, and what text messages have been sent via the unit.
This news has been so shocking to consumers that Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, has informed Carrier IQ, Inc. that using such functions without the consent of the user could amount to wiretapping, which is illegal under federal law. Other legal experts, however, are warning that Senator Franken may not have an accurate understanding of the law. It may turn out that Americans actually lack the legal protections they need in cases like these.
Carrier IQ is not the only program raising these kinds of concerns. Many of the apps that users routinely download have tracking capabilities designed to collect data about, for example, consumer preferences. These are intended to hone marketing efforts so they can be more finely targeted, but that hardly mollifies those who regard them as violations of personal privacy.
Buying new cell phones and recycling old cell phones may help to some degree, since users can start fresh without any apps, and be careful about the ones they install in the future.