* Sen. Al Franken sends letter to Carrier IQ
* Says concerned software may be mining sensitive data
* AT&T, Sprint say use it to monitor network performance
Dec 1 U.S. Senator Al Franken asked software
maker Carrier IQ to respond to claims by an independent
security researcher that its products collect and transmit
potentially sensitive data about millions of mobile phone
Carrier IQ makes software that companies including AT&T Inc
and Sprint Nextel install in mobile devices. It runs in the
background, transmitting data that the software maker says its
customers use to better understand their devices and networks,
which allows them to improve their service.
Hacking expert Trevor Eckhart last month began publishing
research on its functionality, saying it tracks user locations,
and this week released a 17-minute YouTube video showing it
collect data from an HTC smartphone. A firestorm of criticism
has erupted in online forums and on Twitter, where users
complained that the software was violating their privacy.
The video shows a piece of software tracking Eckhart as he
turns his phone on and off, punches numbers to make a call and
records text message in plain text.
"The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data
of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and
possibly transmitted is deeply troubling," Franken said in a
statement. "Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer."
In his letter, he asked the company for details on the
types of data its software collects and what it does with that
AT&T and Sprint Nextel both said they use the software in
their devices to collect information that helps them improve
network and service performance.
"We do use carrier IQ, but we do not and cannot look at the
contents of messages, etc., as some have speculated," said
Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge-Walsh.
A spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless said that her company
did not currently use the software but was not sure if the
company had previously been a customer.
Apple Inc said that some devices, including iPhones, that
run on its iOS 4 operating system use the Carrier IQ software,
but that it does not work with the newer iOS 5. (Reporting
by Jim Finkle and Alastair Sharp, additional reporting by Diane
Bartz and Poornima Gupta and Tarmo Virki