The short answer is probably not; the slightly longer answer is that it could be. Last month, security researcher Trevor Eckhart did a little digging around in his Android Smartphone after seeing some curious data transfers. What he found set off a firestorm of outrage and disbelief. A program installed on the handset by or at the request of major wireless carriers has the ability to track nearly everything a user does on his or her phone.
The program, Carrier IQ, is hidden from end users and appears to collect data without the user's consent. Everything from wireless coverage to apps installed to keystrokes entered can be tracked by the program and sent to that big data collection computer in the sky. Carriers say they use the data provided by the program to improve customer experience and help with diagnosing problems. Security researchers question why a program to improve service is hidden and blocked from access by the user.
Among the allegations made by Eckhart is that the program is installed on multiple operating systems including Android, iOS, and BlackBerry - even Symbian manufacturer Nokia is not left out in the cold.
But let's step back a little bit and look at the BlackBerry OS in particular. Over on BlackBerry's support forum, Mark Sohm states in no uncertain terms that CarrierIQ is not included with the BlackBerry OS, nor are RIM's carrier partners authorized to add such software on to its devices. It's also doubtful that software could be installed on the Smartphone without the user's consent. The sometimes-frustrating BlackBerry permissions should easily prevent unauthorized data and device access. Though complicated, that's what the permissions are there to prevent. Whew!
That being said, Craig Johnston brought up an interesting point during today's podcast. There's nothing preventing BlackBerry administrators from installing CarrierIQ to a phone connected to a company's BES. In that system, the administrator approves all application permission requests. Whether or not a company has done that remains to be seen.
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