It all started when developer Trevor Eckhard exposed an application from a company called Carrier IQ as secret keylogging software. The app is difficult to find, extremely difficult to disable, and is installed on more than 141 million devices according to the company’s own website. Now, a former Justice Department prosecutor suggests that a class action lawsuit against the company is imminent based on Eckhard’s findings.
The story calls to mind others that preceded it, such as the discovery that the FBI can eavesdrop on you through your cellphone or the allegations that Facebook transmitted private information to advertisers without user consent. Unfortunately, it seems that the fight for privacy is a constant struggle in today’s society.
In a video posted on YouTube, Eckhard takes viewers through a live action demonstration of the app in which he documents a number of concerning features:
- It is difficult to find.
- If the user attempts to close the application using the “Force Stop” command, it will not work.
- It records keystrokes.
- It reads information that is supposed to be encrypted under https protocol.
After the news broke, Carrier IQ threatened to sue Eckhard. It seems that the company clearly wants to be the only party involved when it comes to information gathering. Apparently, they took exception to Eckhard’s description of their software as a “rootkit,” a term often used to describe other secret keylogging software like malware and trojan horses that operate without a user’s knowledge. However, the company backed off after the Electronic Frontier Foundation backed Eckhard’s findings.
While Eckhard appears to be safe from any legal action, the same may not be true for Carrier IQ. Paul Ohm, a law professor at the University of Colorado and a former Justice Department prosecutor, says that the software “is very likely a federal wiretap,” and as such it may violate the Wiretap Act. He also predicts that “in the next days or weeks, someone will sue… it’s almost certain.” It looks like Carrier IQ is learning the golden rule the hard way.