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Is Your Smartphone Tracking Your Keystrokes, Texts and Location?

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Is Your Smartphone Tracking Your Keystrokes, Texts and Location?
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Is Your Smartphone Tracking Your Keystrokes, Texts and Location? (ABC News)

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Proof that your smartphone is in fact monitoring your keystrokes, location and received messages may have come from an Android app developer who posted an expose on YouTube.

Developer Trevor Eckhart posted an 18-minute YouTube clip on Monday showing how software from Carrier IQ, a Silicon Valley-based company that provides mobile analytics services, recorded all of the keystrokes he made on a smartphone handset.

Eckhart, a Connecticut-based programmer, says the software is built into handhelds made by many major manufacturers. It is ostensibly there so that manufacturers know if you’re having problems with your phone, but Eckhart says most people have no idea it’s tracking them, and are not offered the option of turning it off.

In the clip Eckhart uses a phone reset to factory settings and puts it in airplane safe mode, i.e. with no Wi-Fi. Using a so-called packet sniffer, a program used to analyze problems and intrusions, he shows how each piece of data entered into the phone, and every message received, is analyzed by the hidden software. Location and other data is also logged.

Carrier IQ responded with a statement that the company does not track keystrokes, nor does it sell information to third parties, and that the data collected is “encrypted and secured.”

“While we look at many aspects of a device’s performance, we are counting and summarizing performance, not recording keystrokes or providing tracking tools. The metrics and tools we derive are not designed to deliver such information, nor do we have any intention of developing such tools,” the company said in the statement.

Former Justice Department prosecutor and law professor at the University of Colorado Law School Paul Ohm told Forbes magazine that the software could be grounds for a class-action lawsuit as it violates a federal wiretapping law

“If Carrier IQ has gotten the handset manufacturers to install secret software that records keystrokes intended for text messaging and the Internet and are sending some of that information back somewhere, this is very likely a federal wiretap,” he told Forbes. “And that gives the people wiretapped the right to sue and provides for significant monetary damages.”

Eckhart’s video, which now has over 445,000 hits in three days, has spread across the web. At the end of the clip he poses simple questions that anyone with one of these devices should ask themselves: “Why is this [software] not opt-out, and why is it so hard to fully remove?”

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