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Don't look now, but the FBI may have fibbed about seeking cell phone monitoring technology

Monday, December 26, 2011 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: FBI, cell phones, surveillance

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(NaturalNews) It goes without saying that the FBI is the nation's premier federal law enforcement agency, but increasingly in the digital age, the bureau seems intent on finding ways around some of those laws - and constitutional protections - and then lying about it.

In mid-December Andrew Coward, the vice president of marketing for Carrier IQ of Mountain View, Calif., told a Senate Judiciary Committee panel that the FBI has, on occasion, sought to use monitoring technology the company secretly installed on some 141 million cell phones.

That admission came a day after
FBI Director Robert adamantly assured members of the committee's privacy and technology panel that his agency "never sought nor obtained any information" from the firm.

When pressed, Coward would not say how many times or how often the bureau sought Carrier IQ's technology, but he was certain of the company's response to those requests. "There is no relationship between us and the FBI," he said.

Coward's testimony appeared to conflict rather mightily with Mueller's, who said in response to a question about it from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that the bureau "neither sought nor obtained any information from Carrier IQ in any one of our investigations."

A spokesman for the FBI, Michael Kortan, sought to trivialize any contact the FBI may have had by telling The Associated Press the agency "communicates routinely with many technology companies, including Carrier IQ, relative to new and emerging technologies and capabilities."

The FBI "routinely" communicates with Carrier IQ and other tech companies, but as Mueller said, the agency just never tried to obtain any information about using said technologies.

We're not sure what's worse - the technology itself or the fact that the FBI is trying to get a hold of it for no apparent good reason. According to reports, Carrier IQ's software is used by cell phone makers and carriers "to collect some information, such as the telephone numbers a user dials and the phone numbers from incoming calls," the Washington Post reported.

The companies assure consumers, however, that the technology doesn't "collect the content of text messages sent or received, the content of e-mails sent or received, the URLs of Web sites visited, information from user address books or any other keystroke data."

Not so fast. This Web site has a wealth of tech-heavy, geek squad stuff on it, but it appears to say, in essence, the software is capable of - and probably does - collect the very information the company says is not being collected.

And there is this. In November, security researcher Trevor Eckhart posted a video online showing how keystrokes and messages from his smart phone were being logged by Carrier IQ software.

Comedian-turned-U.S. senator Al Franken isn't laughing. "These actions may violate federal privacy laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act," he wrote recently in a letter to the company's president. In perhaps the understatement of the year, Franken added "This is potentially a very serious matter."





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