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Originally published December 8 2011

Android smartphone software tracks every user action and keystroke, analysis finds

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Smartphone devices are convenient, handy tools for staying in touch with friends and family, getting directions on the go, and accessing a variety of helpful user applications from virtually anywhere. But a recent analysis of smartphones loaded with Google's Android software platform reveals that the technology can also track every movement, action, and keystroke of users, which represents a serious breach of privacy.

The UK's Telegraph reports that preloaded Android software known as "Carrier IQ" secretly monitors and records the websites Android users access from their mobile phones, as well as the text messages they send and receive and even the individual keystrokes they make. The technology also logs a history of where users are located geographically while performing these tasks.

Carrier IQ claims that its software only tracks this information for the benefit of its users and their smartphone experience, and does not sell the information to third parties. But Trevor Eckhart, a developer of Android "app" software and a security researcher, conducted a test on his own personal Android phone and found that the software keeps an active record of every keystroke made, every text message sent, and where users conduct such activity -- and it sends all this information directly to Carrier IQ.

Eckhart recently posted a video to YouTube that explains how the data collection process works, and how it is quietly transmitted back to Carrier IQ without user knowledge. You can view that video here:

On the one hand, the collection of such information makes sense as it allows network providers and application developers to better understand how mobile phone users use their phones, which can then be used to improve the overall user experience. On the other hand, private information could end up in the hands of government officials and others who may want to spy on citizens and track their private activity.

"I have no problem with improving service. I hate dropped calls too," says Tim Armstrong, a researcher at Kaspersky Lab, an antivirus software developer, concerning the issue. "What I do have a problem with is service providers who are intentionally uninformative about what they are doing with your data on a device you've paid for, and then not allowing any type of removal or opt-out."

A recent Fox News report explains that several class-action lawsuits have been filed in California, Delaware, and elsewhere against Carrier IQ over its data collection practices.

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