Phone 'Rootkit' Maker Carrier IQ May Have Violated Wiretap Law In Millions Of Cases
Originally published: December 1, 2011
Last updated: December 21, 2011 - 7:37pm
A piece of keystroke-sniffing software called Carrier IQ has been embedded so deeply in millions of Nokia, Android, and RIM devices that it’s tough to spot and nearly impossible to remove, as 25-year old Connecticut systems administrator Trevor Eckhart revealed in a video. That’s not just creepy, says Paul Ohm, a former Justice Department prosecutor and law professor at the University of Colorado Law School. He thinks it’s also likely grounds for a class action lawsuit based on a federal wiretapping law.
“If CarrierIQ has gotten the handset manufactures to install secret software that records keystrokes intended for text messaging and the Internet and are sending some of that information back somewhere, this is very likely a federal wiretap.” he says. “And that gives the people wiretapped the right to sue and provides for significant monetary damages.” Specifically, Ohm points to changes made to the Wiretap Act under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 that forbid acquiring the contents of communications without the users’ consent. “Because this happens with text messages as they’re being sent, a quintessentially streaming form of communication, it seems like exactly the kind of thing the wiretap act is meant to prevent,” he says. ”When I was at the Justice Department, we definitely prosecuted people for installing software with these kinds of capabilities on personal computers.”