Watchdog groups and governments in Europe are taking a closer look at Carrier IQ's tracking software, to make sure those mobile phone vendors and operators who use it are not violating users' privacy or the law. The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection recently sent a letter to Apple asking it how it uses Carrier IQ's software.
"The most important thing to me is that users know how their data is used, and if that isn't the case there is a problem," said Thomas Kranig, president of the Bavarian data protection office. Kranig did not comment on the letter's contents, but tells PC World that he expects an answer from Apple within about two weeks.
"Normally, Apple employees in Germany have to talk to the U.S. before they can say anything, so we have to wait," said Kranig. "Being open and up-front with customers about how their personal data is being used is fundamental to maintaining their trust. It is obviously also vital that mobile manufacturers and operators comply with the Data Protection Act," ICO said in a statement.
The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), an independent authoritative body set up to uphold data privacy for individuals, and the BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation, also have concerns about Carrier IQ.
ICO said that it plans to contact mobile phone operators to see who in the region is using Carrier IQ or similar software on U.K. customers' handsets and what steps are being taken to make sure that there are no "privacy implications."
The BEUC says that clear rules on consent and mandatory privacy settings have to become the standard.
"Consumers are often shocked when they discover they are being so closely tracked, so more transparency is an urgent requirement," said Monique Goyens, Director General at BEUC, via an email to PC World.
BEUC hopes that an update to E.U. laws on data protection will address these issues. In the U.S. members of Congress have asked for details on the tracking software's operation.
Apple has said that it used the software in earlier version of its iOS devices but has dropped it with the release of iOS 5 and has not collected any personal information. Samsung Electronics says that its mobile phones sold in Europe don't use Carrier IQ's software. Vodafone and Orange said that they don't use the software at all.
Source: PC World