New Mobile-Phone Privacy Law Proposed

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) unveiled draft legislation Monday requiring mobile-phone carriers to reveal if they are employing tracking software such as Carrier IQ.

“Consumers have the right to know and to say ‘no’ to the presence of software on their mobile devices that can collect and transmit their personal and sensitive information,” Markey said in The Hill.

Under the Mobile Device Privacy Act (.pdf), consumers would have to consent that data from their phones would be sent to third parties, like Carrier IQ in Mountain View, California.

Carrier IQ has said that its software was secretly installed on some 150 million phones. It conceded that it has the capacity to log web usage, and to chronicle where and when and to what numbers calls and text messages were sent and received.

Carrier IQ said that the data it vacuums to its servers from handsets is vast — as the software also monitors app deployment, battery life, phone CPU output and data and cell-site connectivity, among other things. But, Carrier IQ said, it is not logging every keystroke, as a prominent critic suggested.

The data, which gets downloaded from consumers’ phones roughly once a day, is encrypted during transit and also provided to carriers to enhance the “user experience,” Carrier IQ said.

Carrier IQ came under intense scrutiny last month after a Connecticut-based Android developer posted a YouTube video showing the software has enormous access to usage information, and claiming that it logs a user’s every keystroke.

Sprint recently announced that it is dropping Carrier IQ, as did Apple. T-Mobile and AT&T also employ it. Verizon does not.