Carrier IQ, a mobile device software company that was pilloried by the press and lawmakers in late 2011 after its signature application was found to be quietly collecting information from millions of smartphones across the U.S., largely unknown to users, is trying to avoid a repeat of that ugly experience.
On Tuesday, the Mountain View, California-based company announced it had created a new position, General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, and that the first person to fill the role was none other than Magnolia Mansourkia Mobley, a former privacy executive at Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless company.
Ironically, Verizon is one of the few national carriers that publicly stated it wasn’t using the Carrier IQ “Agent IQ” software to monitor users’ smartphone connectivity (such as why dropped calls occur), battery life and application performance.
Carrier IQ came under fire after it was accused of logging users’ keystrokes, which the company said its software did not do, although it later admitted to what it said was a bug that accidentally captured some user text messages.
Still, Carrier IQ is clearly attempting to learn from its past failures to communicate clearly with the public and lawmakers about what information its software does and does not record and transmit to the nation’s carrier companies.
“We are thrilled to have Ms. Mansourkia Mobley join our team as General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer,” said Larry Lenhart, CEO of Carrier IQ, in a press release. “She has the perfect blend of privacy leadership, specific market knowledge and relationships, and legal acumen. This will enable us to further grow and complement our expanding customer objectives.”
“With deep expertise and unmatched technical capabilities, Carrier IQ is a proven leader in providing Mobile Intelligence to mobile operators and device manufacturers,” said Mobley. “I am excited to be joining this innovative organization and its experienced, committed team. I look forward to the opportunity to drive further growth and bolster the company’s long-term strategy through a culture of privacy and consumer empowerment.”
Carrier IQ has also substantially redesigned its website to make it more user friendly, adding a section specifically geared toward consumers and also a section explaining how users can “opt out” of the software, addressing a major complaint by device researchers and users of its earlier software, which seemed to have no way of turning off.
However, the new “opt out” section doesn’t provide a clear “off” button or set of instructions for how to disable the software from the company’s website itself, instead pointing users to the websites of individual wireless carrier companies that use Carrier IQ, or to the devices themselves, which vary in terms of how to access the software and switch it off.
That said, the new focus on providing any information at all to individual users is a clear departure from Carrier IQ’s previous business model, in which the company almost solely interacted with carrier companies and had little public presence. Whether Carrier IQ’s new approach works remains to be seen.