Recently it has been discovered that CarrierIQ, software installed on many smartphones including the Android and some iPhones, has been collecting data from users. This includes monitoring the apps that have been installed, location and even the keystrokes that a user makes. Understandably, many feel this level of involvement is cause for concern. The company in question has denied that it collects keystrokes, affirming that information that is collected is encrypted “to help network performance and customer service for smartphones” (Lynch). The co chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus is now urging the Federal Trade Commission to look into this information storing.
Considering that a majority of my friends own a smartphone, I feel like this news strikes particularly close to home. How would you feel about your provider having access to this much information about you and your phone usage? We have all been warned about sharing sensitive information over Facebook and on other online forums; people might not always be so careful while using a device that they perceive to be secure. It seems as if this practice is likely legal in the United States, though Europe’s more stringent privacy laws may not permit such a dramatic invasion of privacy. If phones with this software have been distributed in Europe, it’s more likely that CarrierIQ will find legal troubles on their hands.
This article brought to mind Martha Ackelsberg and Mary Lyndon Shanley’s piece “Privacy, Publicity and Power.” They discuss the complications of defining the public and private sectors, analyzing the implications of reproductive freedoms when applied to the various spheres. In their conclusion, it is stated that although they “cannot definitively draw a definitional line between public and private for all circumstances and all times, we must be alert to the issues of power and influence at stake in any particular attempt to do so.”
Could the analysis of customer data for the purpose of improving service be a valid reason to invade the privacy of consumers? It has been said that this storing of information was not sufficiently explained to consumers, or in fact at all delineated. If this carrier is in fact logging application usage and even keystrokes, it would hold enormous power over customers. I doubt that many individuals would be comfortable with their carrier releasing information gathered from their texts to other companies. How many times does the average student send an incriminating drunk text?
What do you all think about this article, especially those of you who might be using smartphones? What kind of power has this carrier assumed by logging this type of information? Is the possible violation of your privacy worth the benefits that your phone offers?