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AT&T acquires part of data collection startup Carrier IQ

AT&T acquires part of data collection startup Carrier IQ

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Back in 2011, data collection developer Carrier IQ caused a firestorm of criticism after a security researcher discovered its kernel-level software could be used to track smartphone users without their consent or control. Four years later, the company has been swallowed up by one of the telecoms that used it. TechCrunch reports that AT&T has acquired the assets and some staff from the startup, effectively shutting Carrier IQ down.

"We use CIQ software solely to improve the customer's network."

"We’ve acquired the rights to Carrier IQ’s software, and some CIQ employees moved to AT&T," an AT&T spokesperson told TechCrunch. The company, having admitted to installing the software on some of its phones during the initial controversy, still insists that the information it collects is strictly about performance on its network. "We use CIQ software solely to improve the customer’s network and wireless service experience. This is in line with our Privacy Policy and provides a great benefit to users of our network."

The terms of the deal are reportedly not being disclosed.

The fallout from the Carrier IQ discovery was swift and widespread, foreshadowing the privacy debate that Edward Snowden's NSA leaks would later engender. The tracking software was revealed to be on 150 million smartphones at the time, leading to numerous telcos and handset manufacturers like Apple, HTC, T-Mobile, and Blackberry either admitting to their installing CIQ or categorically denying that they did. Sprint went on to remove the software outright. After the imbroglio, the Mobile Device Privacy Act was introduced in Congress to prevent this exact kind of data collection. However, the legislation never passed.