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Posted at 06:56 PM ET, 12/01/2011

Today in Tech: Carrier IQ draws consumer, lawmaker questions

Carrier IQ: Ever since a researcher named Trevor Eckhart posted evidence that a program known as Carrier IQ is tracking mobile users’ keystrokes and activities, the Web has been abuzz trying to find out how much the program actually collects and how widespread it is.

Carrier IQ is an analytics program for mobile devices that advertises to carriers that it can “measure performance and user experience with no visible impact to your customers.” Eckhart, using his own HTC device, found that the program not only records information about app activity and battery life but also notes when users press any key on the phone and records text messages. He said the data is transmitted back to Carrier IQ’s servers.

Wireless carriers and handset makers have slowly been clarifying how they use Carrier IQ. The program is meant to collect user data to “assist operators and device manufacturers in delivering high-quality products and services to their customers.” But the average user can’t see or agree to this data collection, which is what’s caused such outrage.

Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said on his Twitter account that the company does not use Carrier IQ on its phones. AT&T and Sprint have both released statements saying that they use Carrier IQ for network monitoring and maintenance purposes.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has sent a letter to Carrier IQ asking the company to explain what its software records are and what they contain, how files are transmitted, and how the data is protected.

Apple’s Siri: The American Civil Liberties Union has started a petition asking Apple to update Siri to direct users to places to access birth control or abortion clinics when asked. The ACLU joins NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation in asking Apple to address the black hole in the program’s search results. NARAL sent a letter to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook asking him to provide more complete information in the program.

In response to the reports, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said that the program is not intentionally leaving out the results, but is simply a work in progress.

A new idea for IP: Addressing the thorny issue of how the United States should address online infringement, lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan, bicameral proposal that would give the International Trade Commission the authority to launch investigations into digital imports, or downloads, of counterfeit goods.

The ITC can currently issue orders excluding foreign counterfeit goods from entering the country, and the draft would extend that jurisdiction to the Web.

YouTube revamps site: YouTube has taken the wrapping off a new Web site design that’s focused more on sharing and getting access to content from channel partners of the online streaming site.

The new site has a central panel that connects to your social networks such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook and MySpace. It also has a new, gray color scheme that builds off of its “Cosmic Panda” layout that’s supposed to be cleaner and simpler.

By  |  06:56 PM ET, 12/01/2011

 
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