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    Update: Federal lawmakers seek hearing on Carrier IQ privacy issues

    In the last few months, there have been reports about how smartphone users’ data could be quietly gathered and used by companies via software from a company called Carrier IQ. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Carrier IQ demanding answers about how this technology affects cellphone users’ privacy. European officials are investigating the company for possible privacy violations. Carrier IQ spoke with the Wall Street Journal about its software.

    Now, ComputerWorld reports that the privacy controversy is continuing, and there may be a Congressional hearing into the issue:

    Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), G.K Butterfield (D-NC) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent an open letter (download PDF) to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asking for an investigation of the data collection and transmission capabilities of Carrier IQ’s software and similar products.

    The letter, sent to Upton and two other subcommittee chairs, also asked Congress to find out whether Android phones were sold with security problems that would have exacerbated the problems caused by Carrier IQ’s software.

    “Data collection and transmission by Carrier IQ and similar software is widespread, and consumers appear to have little knowledge and even less control over the practice,” the three lawmakers wrote. […]

    The Carrier IQ controversy erupted in late November, after independent security researcher Trevor Eckhart published a report showing how Carrier IQ’s software could be used by wireless carriers to capture detailed information from Android-powered mobile devices, iPhones and other smartphones.

    Eckhart’s disclosure ignited a firestorm of concern and criticism from multiple quarters — especially when it became clear that the software had been quietly installed on millions of handsets, had been collecting information without notice and was hard to remove.

    Several wireless service providers and handset makers, including AT&T, Sprint, Apple, HTC and Samsung admitted to installing the software in their mobile devices and were promptly hit with lawsuits alleging violation of federal wiretap laws. […]

    In today’s letter, the lawmakers said that several questions remain unanswered. […]

    The trio also asked for an investigation into the disclosure practices of carriers and device manufacturers and of the security and privacy risks associated with the data collection and transmission enabled by Carrier IQ and similar software tools.

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