Nov 23 AT 1:52 PM Anthony Domanico 30 Comments

XDA member gets cease and desist letter from Android OEM tracking software maker, fights back with help from EFF


An XDA-recognized developer TrevE (Trevor Eckhart) received a cease and desist letter from Carrier IQ, a company that produces software that allows OEM manufacturers of Android devices to track everything consumers do on their smartphones. Carrier IQ’s software is embedded at the kernel level in devices made by the likes of Samsung, HTC, and several others, and collects usage information without the user knowing of its existence, let alone the ability to opt-out of this service.

Trevor is a security researcher who originally found Carrier IQ’s existence on Android smartphones, and took to the internet to post Carrier IQ’s publicly-available training materials on his personal site so that others may research and verify Trevor’s research on Carrier IQ. Carrier IQ didn’t like this move too much, and sent Trevor a cease and desist letter, demanding that he both remove the posted materials and “allegations that are without substance, untrue, and that [Carrier IQ] regards as damaging to our reputation and the reputation of our customers.” Additionally, they demanded that Trevor put up a form apology written by the legal team of Carrier IQ on his website.

Rather than simply caving in and doing what Carrier IQ demanded him to do, Trevor turned to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for legal counsel. After a thorough investigation of Carrier IQ’s claims (and attempts to gather additional information from Carrier IQ that went largely unfulfilled), the EFF sent a letter on Trevor’s behalf to Carrier IQ to sort out the accusations.

In the return letter, the EFF stated that Trevor posting the publicly-available materials on his site was covered under the fair-use doctrine of the U.S. Copyright Office. The EFF concluded that the material posted and Trevor’s limited use of the material met the four factors commonly cited in fair use cases. The following explanations are my own understanding. I am not a lawyer, obviously:

  1. Purpose and Character of the Use – whether the accused party is using the materials in the same way Carrier IQ would, as training materials
  2. Nature of the Copyrighted Work – whether the copyrighted work is factual or creative in nature. Creative work is copyrighted much more tightly than factual work
  3. Amount and Sustainability Used – whether the material was appropriately or excessively used
  4. Effect of the Use on the Potential Market for the Work – whether the use of the copyrighted material will allow the accused party to enter/further their position in the copyright-holder’s market. In this case, whether Trevor would use the materials to get into the tracking software business.

In short, the EFF has taken a stance that Trevor’s use of the publicly-available materials were covered under the fair use doctrine, specifically because it meets the approved purpose of “criticism, comment, news reporting, or research,” and does not greatly affect Carrier IQ’s bottom line.


You can read much more about the case by looking at the following sources:

  1. EFF Blog
  2. XDA Developer Post 1
  3. XDA Developer Post 2
  4. Carrier IQ’s Cease and Desist Letter
  5. EFF’s Response to Cease and Desist Letter

For now, we’ll have to wait and see how the case turns out, though it does bring up the bigger issue that regardless of whether we opt-in or out to the various services available on our Android devices, if you happen to own a device that uses Carrier IQ’s software, your behaviors and actions are being tracked anyway. Most importantly, you cannot choose to opt-out of this service unless you choose to “root” your device and use a custom ROM that removes this software, which in turn voids your manufacturer warranty.

I’m sure we will have more to report on this as the story emerges. Stay tuned.

Source: The Verge

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • ranwanimator

    Sounds like a great reason to root.

    I sure wish there was a company out there that didn’t feel the need to do shady stuff all the time. I can’t even think of one that hasn’t pull nonsense like this at some point.

    • Anthony Domanico

      I can’t believe this is embedded in many many smartphones.

    • oparra

      My sentiment exactly.

      I felt, up til know, that there wasn’t enough reason for me (a personal decision, obviously) to root my phone.
      But now, after reading this (and watching my phone constantly transferring data without sync or anything else active), I feel like it’s something I MUST DO.

      Sure hope my phone survives the rooting process :-)

    • AppleFUD

      Just one more reason to buy a Nexus instead of everything else.

      As far as I know, I haven’t seen anything like this kind of [email protected]#t on a nexus. Anyone else?

  • Alan

    I’m confused as to how this does not violate privacy laws

    • Kimbo

      I am as well. I think the shit will be hitting the proverbial fan soon.

    • RevSpaminator

      Privacy laws don’t apply to large corporations with deep pockets. :)

  • Vance

    … this wasn’t even on my list of reasons for rooting and loading Cyanogenmod… but now I’m that much happier I did!

    • Doan

      I do the same. CM notifies you from the very beginning about the information it uses, and it sends once every boot, so it hardly uses data.

      If these companies are up front and let me know what data they want, and what they’re going to do with it, I’d be a lot more inclined to allow them to have it. That is, of course, as long as I’m comfortable with the data they want and the way they plan to use it.

  • Nathan

    well at least i know about this. Gives me better reason to root anyway. Also is there a way that we can stop this some how or at least get a choices if we want to get tracked or not

  • Arcanjo_Morto

    Have you read the EFF’s response letter? All I can say is BLAM!!! They’re citing case law and everything, whereas the cease and desist letter just makes claims with no reference to his supposed wrong doing. Go TrevE, and EFF!

    • Anthony Domanico

      haha, yeah I know. The EFF basically bitchslapped Carrier IQ

      • AsakuraZero

        bitchslap ? carrier iq became the punching bag of the year for the EFF

  • triangle

    Isn’t this just another reason to go with the Galaxy Nexus?

    • Anthony Domanico

      Samsung has this on their devices, I don’t think we know for sure whether it’s on the Galaxy Nexus or not.

  • Ryan

    I don’t understand why people don’t root… it’s almost impossible to screw something up if you can read very basic English. Plus, you can just revert back to stock if you ever need to replace your phone.

    • AsakuraZero

      people doesnt root for the same reason we programers/computers engineers/ IT classify most of the users as stupid.

      it doesnt matter how simplified the software is, the users always find a way to destroy your methods and your tools, even their phones, they are also ignorant of what is rooting and its advantages.

      to me most of the android users that view this webpage are not your “everyday user” .

    • Joshua

      I’ve been a heavy rooter in the past but now I am not so enamored with it. There are too many bugs that developers have in their roms, even CM7 has problems. I dont’ think rooting is that big of a deal anymore. So, in closing, most people don’t root because it really isn’t necessary.

      • iucidium

        I did to get away from sense.

  • MontyX

    I’m from the EU. I’ve bought a Nexus S in the US. I’d like to know about this is this garbage on my phone too? Cuz I don’t this kind of data collection harm the European personal rights. I don’t know how it’s working on the US, but in the EU this is the biggest wrong ever.
    Ps: excuse me b/c my weak english skills!

    • Queen Laqueefa

      You have nothing to apologize for. Your English skills are better than a good percentage of people who speak it as their first language.

  • annonymous

    Sadly, this is not surprising. I wonder who controls Carrier IQ.. The Illuminati?

  • festethejeste

    Does anyone have a list of phone models that have this Carrier IQ imbedded in it. I’d like to know, as like all here have mentioned, don’t support this one bit! This isn’t what android is about.

    If there isn’t a list. It should be compiled and spread among the masses!

  • paxmos

    All hail middle finger for Carrier IQ. I have more respect for a whore standing on the corner of the street trying to make a living than these companies and their employees.

  • Paxmos

    Will anyone go after this company and the manufacturers who allow this???

  • Raptor

    Wow! This is a major scandal of the year

  • SuperAndroid

    Nice one Trevor