[conspire] Lessons from CarrierIQ (was: Mashable - The Social Media Guide)

Ruben Safir ruben at mrbrklyn.com
Sat Dec 3 14:16:00 PST 2011

On Sat, Dec 03, 2011 at 02:13:17PM -0800, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Jesse Monroy (jesse650 at gmail.com):
> > Good article on Carrier IQ. Do you concur with Dr Watson (ala windows)
> > analogy?
> > 
> > http://mashable.com/2011/12/03/carrier-iq-is-misunderstood-not-evil/
> No.  Author and '25-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist'
> Lance Ulanoff appears to be an idiot, or an industry apologist, or both.
> Or, actually, a trolling ex-Ziff-Davis hack who has nothing to say but
> needs to file some provocative material on a trendy subject under tight
> deadline pressure.  None of those is actually mutually exclusive.
> In my experience, 'IT journalist' tends to mean little more than
> 'reporter assigned to cover computing because he/she can touch-type',
> though there are honourable exceptions.  On balance, the sum and
> substance of Ulanoff's article is probably 'Please stop ignoring
> Mashable.com.  We're important, honest!  And we need your ad impressions 
> to pay rent on the townhouse in Queens, so please get upset and post to
> our feedback forums.'

Not Brooklyn?

> The gist of Ulanoff's argument, such as it is:  relax about Carrier IQ
> logging and analysing everything going outbound on your smartphone,
> because you already knew that all of that bitstream was going outbound
> throug your telco carrier anyway, and they're all just trying to measure
> and improve network and smartphone performance.  And, besides, if you
> ran Win95/98/NT, you were (unless you took initiative to disable it)
> running a debugger named Dr. Watson that reported debugging data to a
> local file following any userspace application error.
> That's a superlatively dumb argument, particularly since Ulanoff says he
> watched Eckhart's painstaking 17-minute video analysis, which means he
> knows better unless he's a -total- moron.  
> Dr. Watson didn't record anyone's full application session including all
> keystrokes, but rather only basic process state data (stack contents,
> etc.) analogous to some of what gdb captures.  More to the immediate
> point, even that process-state data was captured _locally_ to
> drwtsn32.log, which the user could choose to furnish to technical
> support staff.  It wasn't automatically reported to anywhere, ever.
> I note in passing this especially risible bit of Ulanoff drivel that is
> his concluding judgement:
>    The reality is it's an act of a company that's not used to
>    dealing with the public.
> Which explains their thuggish bullshit lawsuit threat (and greasy
> non-apology apology) against researcher Eckhart how, exactly?
> The keystroke-level logging to Carrier IQ even of everything the user
> does in an _HTTPS session_ is a particularly damning betrayal of user 
> expectations, and 'We were just trying to help you' is the predictable 
> defence but is utter bullshit and everyone knows it, maybe even Ulanoff.
> It's worth noting that HTC, RIM, Sprint, Nokia, Samsung, and probably a
> bunch of other cellular telcos and handset manufacturers have almost 
> certainly all been complicit in this, which gets back to the point of my
> upthread post.  (Apple, Inc. used to include an earlier version of
> Carrier IQ in its smartphones, but stopped doing so as of iOS 5.)  The
> point is that this is business as usual in embedded computing, and that
> the only way to prevent it is to use your own firmware load and make it
> physically impossible.
> So:  The telcos and embedded hardware makers are addicted to treating
> their customers as corporate property, to lock in, manipulate, and mine
> for information, and it's important never to forget that.  Even though
> the major companies have been busy this week throwing Carrier IQ under
> the bus
> (http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2129767/apple-nokia-rim-distance-carrier-iq-saga),
> it's well to remember that it's more because the firm's become a PR
> embarrassment than because of any pretence to ethics from eveyone else.
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You must be a stupid engineer then, because politcs and technology have been attached at the hip since the 1st dynasty in Ancient Egypt.  I guess you missed that one."

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