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Josh Levy

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Is Your Cell Phone Spying on You?

Posted: 12/01/11 02:31 PM ET

Are you being watched?

An independent researcher just discovered a hidden application that records what millions of people write, view and search for on their mobile phones. It sends all of that data to a company no one's ever heard of. And we have no idea what that company is doing with our information.

Sounds like 1984. But it's happening in 2011.

Earlier today, Sen. Al Franken demanded answers from the company, Carrier IQ, calling its technology "deeply troubling." We now need a full investigation.

Carrier IQ is working with mobile phone manufacturers and cellphone carriers to install its spying software on Androids and iPhones, and it may be on models made by BlackBerry, Nokia and other manufacturers.

Researcher Trevor Eckhart exposed the privacy breach in a shocking video that shows how Carrier IQ secretly records actions that you take on your phone -- numbers that you dial, letters that you press when texting or searching the Web, menu buttons that you push -- and sends it all back to Carrier IQ headquarters.

There's no way to turn any of this off without hacking your phone. And mobile phone carriers neglected to inform the public that this software exists in the first place.

The fact that one company is secretly storing away the data of millions of mobile phone users -- without our knowledge, and with no way for us to opt out -- is just incredible. You'd expect this sort of thing from the Chinese government -- not from a company operating in the present-day U.S.

This is not only a privacy problem, it's a democracy problem.

Mobile phones have become the ultimate democracy devices. Activists from Cairo to New York City to Los Angeles have used their phones to broadcast images of pepper-spraying cops, handcuffed journalists and squares full of protesters. We must ensure that the most important movements of our time aren't compromised by data spies with little regard for our free speech or privacy.

Law professor and former Department of Justice attorney Paul Ohm says that Carrier IQ's snoopware "is very likely a federal wiretap," which means that the company could be prosecuted for breaking federal law.

And Sen. Franken said that "Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information...Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer."

Free Press agrees. We're calling on Congress and the Department of Justice to investigate Carrier IQ and to get some answers.

 

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