The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put out an open call for developers to help them figure out how the controversial, smartphone-spying Carrier IQ software actually works. For a lot of privacy advocates, the big question is whether or not the diagnostic software is overstepping ethical bounds and potentially even breaking federal wire-tapping laws by collecting user data and selling it to mobile carriers. EFF is a non-profit devoted to "defending your rights in a digital world," to borrow the wording of its tagline, so the project aims to answer that question for the public good. The way to do this, the organization says, is by reverse-engineering the software in order to create a bunch of user profiles that data and legal experts can analyze. EFF's Peter Kearsley describes the goal in a blog post. "Profiles contain instructions about what data to collect, how to aggregate it, and where to send it," explains Kearsley. "To create transparency for the public that has been monitored by the more intrusive variants of this software, we will need a comprehensive library of these Profiles, and to know which ones were pushed to which phones at what times."
Since one hacker-type posted a YouTube video that he said showed how Carrier IQ software records torrents of data, as specific as individual key strokes and the content of text messages, the company has flood of scrutiny from the public and the government. Carrier IQ's been adamant about defending its service against accusations that it's breaking the law or abusing its access to the data on the 150 million or so phones that come pre-loaded with the software. It's also notoriously difficult to opt out of the service, much less delete it from your phone. Just last week, Carrier IQ executives were making the rounds at the major government agencies, including the Senate and the Federal Communications Commission, who'd expressed concerns about the company's data collection practices. The company's the government will launch an official investigation, the concern has proved pretty durable; on Friday, Sprint announced that it was removing Carrier IQ software from all of its phones. Does this confirm that Carrier IQ's software is snooping and evil? Not at all. But the EFF's army of hackers just might.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.