If you are like us, every day you pick up a smartphone and you send email, visit with friends on Facebook, send a text message or even log into your bank’s website and pay a bill. These modern day conveniences have become routine.
We all believe that our passwords are secure, our data is protected, and life is easier if we don’t have to write a check to pay a bill or dig around and find a stamp to send a friend a quick note.
But this morning we are no longer sure. The tech world is in a fury, which we believe will soon break out into society at large, about a little know software program call Carrier IQ. Over the Thanksgiving weekend a 25 year old programmer by the name of Trevor Eckhart posted a video on YouTube which graphically displays how our naive beliefs of privacy are just plain wrong.
The video which lasts 17 minutes and starts slowly because he methodically goes through the privacy statements on his cell phone is frightening. If you watch it, you will never look at your smartphone the same again. We have posted the video at Floydreports.com if you want to watch.
The program, Carrier IQ cannot be turned off. But it tracks your every move. Dial a friend’s phone, it sends the number off to someone. Send or receive a text message and the message is recorded and sent off. Call up your bank or another website in the allegedly secure https: mode which we have been told is secure and Carrier IQ is there recording your username, password and any other move you make on your phone.
Rather than calling them smartphones we should be calling them people monitors. The only action you take which it cannot record is a thought in your head that you refuse to express. These phones are even capable of recording what you say. Scary is not the word for it.
Trevor Eckhart even takes pains to turn off the GPS function for use by Google maps and search and then he demonstrates how Carrier IQ still is logging your position.
Now what can you do about it? The program can only be removed if you hack or as they say “root” your phone. But beware rooting your phone likely violates the contract you have signed with your carrier, and it clearly voids any manufacturers’ warranty you may have on the device.
Since the video was first posted others have gone to work and exposed how in addition to Android phones the Carrier IQ software is also present on I Phones with iOS 3 operating system and above.
The privacy issues surrounding smartphones have been numerous, but the exposure of Carrier IQ brings the threat to an entirely new level. Chances are if you have a smartphone you have no privacy around or while using the device. Be careful.
Makes you understand why criminals all use burner phones.
©2011 Floyd and Mary Beth Brown. The Browns are bestselling authors and speakers. To comment on this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Together they write a national weekly column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Floyd is also president of the Western Center for Journalism.
This column has been edited by the authors. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the authors.