Security software

Carrier IQ Hopes Customers Will Come Back After Scandal

Carrier IQ said it hopes that operators, some of which have disabled its software after a privacy uproar late last year, are now realizing how valuable the data its software collects is.

"Some of our customers have been using this data for five years. It's deeply embedded in how they operate," said Andrew Coward, vice president of marketing and product management at Carrier IQ. "For the most part, they've realized this is the only way they'll ever get this kind of real insight on the consumer experience." He spoke from the company's tiny booth on the show floor at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday.

Coward said the company hasn't lost a single customer following the release of a research report late last year that showed Carrier IQ's software was logging keystrokes, unbeknownst to end users. Carrier IQ's software is designed to send information about the phone's performance to operators, which use the data to learn more about performance issues.

Sprint and Apple both said that they disabled the Carrier IQ software on their phones. Some Carrier IQ customers are likely to have contracts of a set term, so even if they disabled the software, Carrier IQ may not consider them a lost customer.

Carrier IQ maintains that its software doesn't record keystrokes, but Coward said that "flaws in implementation by a lot of handset makers led to information being written into those files that never should have been."

Over the last six to eight weeks, phone makers have been pushing out firmware updates to phones to correct the implementation. In addition, Carrier IQ has added a qualification step to ensure that the software is implemented correctly and that no private information is left on devices, he said.

Most Carrier IQ customers are now taking a look at how important the data is to them, Coward said. "It gave pause for a lot of our customers to question what is this data, is it important, do we need it and can we get by without it," he said. Executives who are accustomed to seeing regular reports on the health of phones in the marketplace are unlikely to want to give up that kind of insight, he said.

To make its offering even more valuable, Carrier IQ on Monday released APIs that will allow operators to use the data collected through Carrier IQ to create customer self-care portals on their web sites. An operator that uses this technology would allow a customer to log into the portal and at a glance see that the operator has noticed their phone is getting poor battery life or has many dropped calls, for example. The portal would then be able to suggest fixes to the problems, by showing the customer which applications are draining a lot of data, for instance.

The pressure specifically on Carrier IQ from authorities after the keystroke allegations surfaced has died a bit, according to Coward. U.S. members of Congress questioned Carrier IQ about the data its software collects and asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate. Regulators in some European countries also began looking into the company, even though it doesn't have any customers in Europe, according to Coward. Most of the investigations have been subsumed into broader discussions by authorities into the need for mobile privacy regulations, he said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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