Thursday, December 15, 2011
Got a smartphone? Guess who has all of your keystrokes and text messages
by Larry Geller
Most computer users understand that their desktop computer has an “operating system.” That’s an executive program that takes care of all the details so that you can run programs of your choice on the machine.
Smartphones are not the same. Yes, they have operating systems, but basically they are one big app that runs other apps. The programs that your smartphone runs are not only those that you choose (“apps”) but anything that the vendor wants to put in your phone.
So if something is spying on what you do on your home computer, it is some virus or “spyware” that has gotten in. (That Microsoft Windows allows these viruses to run at all is a whole other subject.)
If something or someone is spying on your smartphone, it is by design. Who has your keystrokes? Of course, once the data is in someone else’s hands, you no longer have control over it.Sorry. It may be that anyone with a subpoena in hand can get your text messages.
Here’s the latest on the privacy of your personal communications from this morning’s Democracy Now headlines.
Mobile Software Firm Carrier IQ Probed for Phone Tracking
The mobile technology firm Carrier IQ is being investigated for allegations its software was used to track the user activity of around 150 million cell phone users and pass their information onto carriers without permission. The Federal Trade Commission launched the probe following the disclosure smartphones with Carrier IQ software captured every keystroke and text message and sent the data to the user’s cell phone provider. Three of the four major cellular providers — AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — say they use Carrier IQ software. Apple says its Carrier IQ will be removed in future software updates. Meanwhile, Carrier IQ is also engulfed in another controversy over its suspected ties to law enforcement surveillance. The controversy erupted after the FBI denied a journalist’s Freedom of Information Act request for documents on data analysis that were gathered with Carrier IQ software. The FBI confirmed it has pertinent information, but denied to release it on the grounds it falls under "law enforcement records." The FBI so far has refused to deny whether it is using Carrier IQ for surveillance activities.