The Carrier IQ Conspiracy Continues

Posted by · December 12, 2011 4:15 pm

For the past few weeks, the controversy over Carrier IQ has all been about potential harm. Talk of what the consequences could be if Carrier IQ used the phone use information for something besides its stated purpose of improving service filled the blogosphere, but nothing more than speculation could be offered.

Until now.

According to a Forbes report, the ongoing work of blogger Michael Morisy has potentially given considerable substance to the concerns of Carrier IQ critics. After filing a Freedom of Information request for any and all “manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ,” the blogger received a very telling response.

Although the FBI didn’t explicitly confess its use of Carrier IQ-retrieved information, the bureau did deny Morisy’s request by citing a specific provision of the Freedom of Information Act, exempting the FBI from being forced to surrender documents that “could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings.”

That is, instead of simply saying that no such information exists, the FBI cited a provision that reasonably leads one to conclude that the FBI does have information on Carrier IQ in its archives.

However, despite the mass hysteria that is sure to ensue in some corners of the blogosphere, this response does not necessarily implicate the FBI and therefore confirm some of the conspiratorial conclusions that have been offered. Rather, it leaves us with one of two very opposite yet equally possible conclusions.

The first conclusion is that our worst fears have been confirmed. Contrary to the assurances offered by Carrier IQ, the information that the software collects is not simply used to perform diagnostic purposes to ensure the best possible network service. Instead of following the legally recognized principles of due process, the FBI has been collecting user information that typically would have at least required a FISA warrant to seize.

On the other hand, there is an equally plausible explanation for the FBI’s denial of Morisy’s request. And it’s an explanation that would result in a very different disposition toward the agency.

The other possibility is that Carrier IQ is being investigated for the crimes that it has been accused of violating. It must be remembered that Carrier has been charged (not formally) with breaking federal wiretap laws in millions of cases. Among those laws allegedly violated are the Federal Wiretap Act, Stored Communications Act, and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. As a result of the subsequent appall felt by consumers, several companies that use Carrier IQ on their devices—including Apple, Sprint, T-Mobile and several others—have had class action suits filed against them.

In other words, it may well be that the FBI is denying Morisy’s request in order to perform its own investigation of Carrier without any unnecessary interference from people looking for a story. As such, it is important not to draw any conclusions, one way or the other, until more information becomes available.

Unfortunately, however, this possible explanation is likely to fall short for those who want to believe the worst without first knowing the whole story. Fear sells, even if the facts aren’t there to validate it. And the people who want readers to view their posts and click on their ads know it.

Instead of believing the hype—commonly known as headlines—it’s critical that we stick to the facts and hope for the best, even if the worst may be suspected.