AT&T Inc, Sprint Nextel Corp, Apple Inc and T-Mobile USA were sued by mobile phone customers who claim that Carrier IQ Inc tracking software installed on their phones violates US wiretapping and computer fraud laws.
The lawsuit cites a YouTube report by a technology blogger that purported to show that Carrier IQ software collects information on cellphone users’ locations, applications and Web browsing and even the keys they press. Four consumers filed a complaint on Friday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, seeking to block the carriers and cellphone makers from using the software.
Carrier IQ software logs user activity and runs in the background of mobile devices. After the YouTube report, the US Senate Judiciary Committee contacted the company seeking information and alleging that the software might violate federal privacy laws, according to a copy of the complaint supplied by David Straite, an attorney for the plaintiffs. The filing of the lawsuit could not be confirmed on Friday through electronic court records.
AT&T and Sprint, the second and third-largest US wireless providers, said in e-mailed statements on Thursday that the software data was used to improve service performance. Apple stopped supporting Carrier IQ in most products and will remove it completely in a future software update, Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said in an e-mail on Thursday.
The customers who sued seek compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of all others whose devices contain the so-called “rootkit” software from Mountain View, California-based Carrier IQ, which is also named as a defendant in the suit. The software is currently installed on 150 million cellphones worldwide, according to the complaint.
Violations of the federal wiretap laws, which prohibit willful interception of wire or electronic communication, can result in damages of US$100 a day per violation, according to the complaint.
AT&T spokeswoman Carol Roos declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr, Sprint Nextel spokeswoman Leigh Horner and T-Mobile USA representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment after regular business hours on Friday. Carrier IQ spokeswoman Mira Woods did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
In a statement on Nov. 16, Carrier IQ said its software was designed to improve user experience and was embedded in devices by manufacturers along with other diagnostic tools. The company also says it does not sell personal subscriber information to third parties.