Partners Eye Competitive Edge As AT&T Acquires Carrier iQ Assets

Telecommunications giant AT&T confirmed it has scooped up software assets and staff from the once-controversial mobile device monitoring software developer Carrier iQ.

Financial details of the acquisition have not yet been disclosed. In the meantime, AT&T has confirmed it now owns software assets of privately owned Sunnyvale, Calif. based Carrier iQ, and the developer's website has been taken offline. The news of Carrier iQ's demise was first reported by TechCrunch.

Carrier iQ gained notoriety in 2011 when questions were raised about the provider's software and its ability to track and monitor user activity and communications. But partners aren't concerned about AT&T using its newly acquired technology for nefarious purposes.

"I'd like [AT&T] to do what I believe ultimately they will do -- continue to improve the AT&T network coverage and speeds, and enhance how tablets, smartphones and mobile hot spots function on its network," said Rob Chamberlin, co-founder and executive vice president of DataXoom, a solution provider partner of AT&T.

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The controversy around Carrier iQ kicked up when security researcher Trevor Eckhart demonstrated the ability of Carrier iQ's software to log user keystrokes, intercept text messages, record phone calls, and track user locations. The company, however, denied any privacy violations and said its technology uses data collected from smartphones on battery life, Internet access performance, and application crash logs to improve customer experiences. The revelation prompted several class-action suits against Carrier iQ.

In 2011, Carrier iQ said its software is installed on upward of 150 million mobile devices in the U.S. The software runs in the background and doesn't require authorized user consent to function, the company said.

The company also allegedly partnered with several U.S. mobile device manufacturers and telecommunications providers, including AT&T. Dallas-based AT&T began working with Carrier iQ several years ago to monitor and troubleshoot wireless quality, the carrier confirmed to CRN.

"We’ve acquired the rights to Carrier IQ’s software, and some CIQ employees moved to AT&T. We use [Carrier] IQ software solely to improve the customer’s network and wireless service experience. This is in line with our privacy policy and provides a great benefit to users of our network," an AT&T spokesperson said to CRN via email.

Partners believe AT&T's use of Carrier iQ's software won't change much since the carrier was already using the monitoring technology prior to the acquisition, but it could give AT&T and its partners a competitive edge.

"In the future, this [technology] might be interesting as an enhanced offering to AT&T's core mobility partners. But at this point it's purely speculation to guess what their plan is post-acquisition," DataXoom's Chamberlin said.

Berkeley, Calif.-based DataXoom is a solution provider that focuses on mobility solutions for its end customers. The provider hasn't used Carrier iQ technology before, but doesn't believe security and privacy will be a concern for its end customers who are also AT&T customers, Chamberlin said.

"I believe that AT&T plans to continue using Carrier iQ to improve the customer’s network and wireless service experience," he said.