CarrierIQ is Watching You


Written by Hatti Whitman
05 Monday 05th December 2011

CarrierIQ, a California start-up technology company whose software is designed to improve performance on Android phones, found themselves in hot water when a developer called Trevor Eckhart published a video showing that the software was logging keystrokes and reading text messages. Like the Cold War meets Texts From Last Night. Eckhart’s allegations have caused something of a furore, and CarrierIQ are now facing four lawsuits plus an investigation into whether they’re breaching statutes on wiretap usage in the US. Bummer.

It’s not just your phone that can look at your habits and judge you now: Visa have bought into analytics software so that they can better monitor spending patterns and sell their findings to retailers. The data will, of course, be kept totally anonymous. But I can’t help but wonder if it would stay that way were I to go to the supermarket and buy ten bags of white sugar and eighty metres of aluminium foil, and then follow it up with a trip to the garden centre for some potassium-based fertilizer. What? Never made a smoke bomb in your kitchen before? Oh hey there, MI5….

In further spying news, Wikileaks published a collection of documents at the beginning of the month that they’re calling ‘The Spy Files’. Essentially, these detail how surveillance companies are marketing their merchandise to governments, security services, and law enforcement to use to keep a weather eye on entire populations. That’s capturing and storing ALL user data transmitted over WiFi, mobile internet and broadband networks selected by the client. Yeah, all your drunk Google searches, monitored and recorded for posterity.

Speaking of Google, they launched their instant search function on the iPad at the end of November. The service is now standard on most PC and Mac browsers, but if you have a Google account the thing starts predicting what you’re going to search based on your usage history. Google knows you better than you do, so they tailor their advertising to suit not just what you’re searching for, but what you’ve searched for in the past.

They’re not the only ones – Facebook are in trouble with the European Commission for their breaches of user privacy, using personal data and location analysis to 'fit' their advertising to each individual user. Facebook claims this improves user experience. I’m starting to get offended by how much they think my user experience can be improved by ‘boosting’ underwear, probably based on the fact that my gender is 'Female'. I feel like the girl at the beginning of The Social Network  - there’s no way I want Mark Zuckerberg anywhere near my pants. 

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