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The controversy exploded recently after Connecticut-based security researcher Trevor Eckhart posted a video that he said showed the Carrier IQ software, pre-installed on as many as 140 million Android , BlackBerry, and Nokia smartphones, sending text messages, searches, and other user actions to the carrier without the user's knowledge or consent. Eckhart said that "every button you press in the dialer" is sent even before a call is made, and even when the owner is using Wi-Fi and not the carrier's network .
In the furor that has erupted, some observers have suggested that federal wiretap laws may have been violated. But Mountain View, Calif.-based Carrier IQ has denied Eckhart's charges.
In a statement on its Web site, the company said that, while there is a "great deal of information available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset, our software does not record, store or transmit the content of SMS messages, e-mail, photographs, audio or video." As examples, the company said that its software knows that a SMS was sent accurately, but it does not record or transmit its content.
Several class-actions lawsuits against Carrier IQ, phone makers and carriers have been filed in the U.S. Privacy regulators in various countries, including Germany, the U.K., and France, are looking into possible violations, and, in the U.S., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has sent letters to Carrier IQ, Sprint Nextel, AT&T, HTC, Samsung, and Sprint to find out exactly what data is being collected and how it is being used.
Sprint, for one, has replied that the data is being used to "analyze network performance " and that the software does not and cannot "look at the contents of messages."