The controversy over the software company, based in Silicon Valley, erupted a few weeks ago when security researcher Trevor Eckhart discovered evidence that a piece of software developed by the company and found on smartphones captured every keystroke and text message written by users and sent the information on the handsets to carriers.
The FTC inquiry was confirmed by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is private. An FTC spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny whether the agency was investigating Carrier IQ. But a spokesman for Carrier IQ said company executives were cooperating with federal agencies.
“This week Carrier IQ sought meetings with the FTC and FCC to educate the two agencies . . . and answer any and all questions,” said Andrew Coward, the senior vice president for marketing, adding that he was “not aware of an official investigation.”
Earlier, Mira Woods, a public-relations contractor for Carrier IQ, wrote in an e-mail: “We are complying with all investigations at this time as we have nothing to hide. . . .
We have been completely transparent through this process.” In a follow-up e-mail and conversation, she asked The Washington Post to change the word “investigations” to “inquiries.”
Carrier IQ has said that its software is not designed to capture keystrokes or the content of messages but that in some cases that might have happened by accident. The data are intended to help improve the user experience with smartphones, the company said.
Woods said Carrier IQ chief executive Larry Lenhart and Coward met with regulators at the FTC and the FCC. The Carrier IQ executives also met with the staffs of three senators — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) — who each had written letters of concern to Lenhart.
Three of the four major cellular providers — AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — have said they use the company’s software in line with their own privacy policies. A Verizon spokesman said the program is not on any of the company’s mobile devices. Apple has said it would remove Carrier IQ from iPhones in a future software update.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) asked the FTC on Dec. 2 to investigate the practices of Carrier IQ as possibly unfair or deceptive. “I have serious concerns about the Carrier IQ software and whether it is secretly collecting users’ personal information, such as the content of text messages,” said Markey, co-chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus. “Consumers and families need to understand who is siphoning off and storing their personal information every time they use their smartphone.”