Linked List: December 1, 2011

Man Shoots Video of 18-Foot Great White Shark With iPhone 4S 

Jiminy.

Half Wacko 

This week’s episode of The Talk Show, with topics ranging from game consoles, retina display iPads and future Macs, a wee bit on this Carrier IQ stuff, to the demise of HyperCard. Brought to you by TinyLetter and Reinvigorate.

Carrier IQ Speaks 

John Paczkowski spoke to executives at Carrier IQ. Even they’re backpedaling, pointing the finger at carriers:

The carriers. They decide what’s to be collected and how long it’s stored — typically about 30 days. And according to Carrier IQ, the data is in their control the whole time.

“It’s the operator that determines what data is collected,” says Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart. “They make that decision based on their privacy standards and their agreement with their users, and we implement it.”

On this point, Lenhart is particularly emphatic. “We capture only the data they specify, and provide it to them,” he reiterates. “We don’t capture more than that.”

They only capture what the carriers ask for.

The Tell 

MG Siegler:

My initial reaction would be that this is being hugely blown out of proportion — something we’ve seen before in the mobile space — BUT the fact that every single company in the mobile space is now trying to distance themselves from Carrier IQ is not a good sign.

The companies that know best what Carrier IQ does, what data it has collected, are getting as far away from Carrier IQ as possible, as quickly as possible.

Dan Frommer on How to Write a Weblog 

Great advice. I even agree with his priorities.

Stanley Kubrick’s New York 

Post-WWII New York, through the camera of Stanley Kubrick. Not bad.

See also: Kubrick’s Chicago, circa 1949.

Mobile Phone Muggings on the Rise, at Least in San Francisco 

C.W. Nevius, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle:

Official police statistics show that there were more than 40 cell phone muggings in November. The number may not seem high, but it is unsettling with just a portion of the crimes reported, and virtually all of them involve a gun, knife or physical assault.

“You’re focused on your phone, talking, and you get sucker punched,” said Tenderloin Station Capt. Joe Garrity.

Adam Engst: Let’s Stop With the Siri Baiting 

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Today’s Edition of Cognitive Dissonance 

From a Changewave survey of iPhone 4S owners:

When we looked at what new owners disliked most about their iPhone 4S, two things dwarfed all others — Battery Life and the Lack of 4G. A total of 38% of owners say the iPhone 4S’s Battery Life is Too Short, while 30% say they dislike the Lack of 4G Capability.

Gee, I wonder what would happen to battery life if it had 4G.

AT&T, Sprint Confirm Use of Carrier IQ Software on Handsets 

Jaikumar Vijayan, reporting for Computerworld:

AT&T and Sprint, two of the largest U.S. wireless carriers, confirmed that its mobile handsets use the software but only for legitimate service and quality-related purposes.

Apple Statement on Carrier IQ 

Apple:

We stopped supporting CarrierIQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update. With any diagnostic data sent to Apple, customers must actively opt-in to share this information, and if they do, the data is sent in an anonymous and encrypted form and does not include any personal information. We never recorded keystrokes, messages or any other personal information for diagnostic data and have no plans to ever do so.

I.e., they’ve done nothing contrary to their diagnostics privacy policy. “Most of our products” is weaselly, though.

RIM, HTC on Carrier IQ: Blame the Carriers 

John Paczkowski:

HTC went one step further, fingering the carriers outright. “Carrier IQ is required on devices by a number of U.S carriers so if consumers or media have any questions about the practices relating to, or data collected by, Carrier IQ we’d advise them to contact their carrier,” the company said, stressing that it is not a customer or partner of Carrier IQ. “HTC is investigating the option to allow consumers to opt-out of data collection by the Carrier IQ application,” it added.

Sen. Al Franken Sends a Letter to Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart 

Sen. Al Franken:

But right now, Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer.

Verizon Disavows Use of Carrier IQ 

Kevin Fitchard, reporting for GigaOm:

“Any report that Verizon Wireless uses Carrier IQ is patently false,” Verizon Wireless spokesperson Jeffrey Nelson said in an email. In an email follow-up, spokeswoman Debra Lewis elaborated. “We did recently notify customers about new privacy programs; we were transparent about how customer information will be used and gave clear choices to customers about whether they want to participate in these programs,” she said (the privacy policy is here). “Carrier IQ is not involved in these programs.”

No weasel words there.

Update: A few readers seem confused about whether I’m being sarcastic here. I’m not. This reads to me like a clear statement that Verizon is not using Carrier IQ. If the above is true, Verizon is not involved.

Read Between the Lines 

RIM, in a statement to Reuters:

RIM does not pre-install the Carrier IQ app on BlackBerry smartphones or authorize its carrier partners to install the Carrier IQ app before sales or distribution. RIM also did not develop or commission the development of the Carrier IQ application, and has no involvement in the testing, promotion, or distribution of the app.

So RIM doesn’t install it, and RIM doesn’t “authorize” carriers to install it, but note that they do not say that the carriers do not install it. So I think this headline by Nilay Patel at The Verge goes too far: “Carrier IQ not installed on BlackBerry phones, says RIM”. Sounds to me like it is installed on at least some BlackBerry phones, and RIM is distancing itself from it.

More on Google and Carrier IQ 

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge:

The Carrier IQ smartphone tracking scandal continues to grow, but we’ve just learned some interesting news from an extremely reliable source: the Google Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, and the original Xoom tablet do not contain Carrier IQ software. Each of those devices was launched in direct partnership with Google as the flagship for a new version of Android, so it seems that the addition of Carrier IQ comes from OEMs and carriers after Google open-sources Android’s code.

Assuming that The Verge’s source is from Google — which could well be a wrong assumption, but that’s what it sounds like to me — it looks like Google is moving to distance itself and Android from Carrier IQ. If this turns into a scandal it’s going to get pinned — correctly, it seems at this point — on the carriers.

Carrier IQ, Android, and the Carriers 

Seth Weintraub:

Carrier IQ is something that Carriers put on phones as part of their OEM software. This is out of the hands of both Google and the manufacturers.

And here’s Kyle Sluder, on Twitter:

This CarrierIQ story has been wrongly turned into an Apple vs. Android battle. It’s all about the carriers.

Chris Rawson on Siri’s Purported ‘Pro-Life’ Bias 

Chris Rawson, writing for TUAW:

Siri’s unhelpful and sometimes misleading answers to pressing health questions stand in stark contrast to her prompt and accurate responses to inquiries about nearby escort services,” says Think Progress, while Slate goes even farther off the deep end and says, “many around the Web [are] wondering if Siri is pro-life and whether Apple is attempting to impose its morals upon the rest of us.”

This is a textbook example of sensationalistic media making something from absolutely nothing.

Plus, Apple is a pretty progressive company, especially by Fortune 500 standards. If anything, the company’s politics on this issue would skew the other way.

A Siri search for “Planned Parenthood” almost always returns results no matter where you search in the States — because that search is powered by Yelp rather than whatever comparatively limited database Siri is using for more specific searches like “abortion clinic” or “birth control.” If Siri is really supposed to be “pro-life” and “imposing morals” on its users, then searches for the politically charged Planned Parenthood clinics would also turn up no results, wouldn’t they?

Exactly.

Apple Says Siri’s Abortion Answers Are a Glitch 

Jenna Wortham, reporting for the NYT, gets a statement from Apple on the “Siri won’t help you find an abortion clinic” meme:

“Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want,” said Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple, in a phone interview late Wednesday. “These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone. It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks.”

Carrier IQ on iOS 

Good investigative work by Grant “chpwn” Paul. iOS includes a Carrier IQ daemon, but it doesn’t seem to log any particularly sensitive information. Nothing like a keylogger or reading SMS messages. He’s documenting his research on Twitter as he goes.

Update: Worth noting that it appears that nothing gets submitted to Carrier IQ if you opt-out with the “Send Automatically” switch in Settings → General → About → Diagnostics & Usage. That’s deep inside Settings, but Apple prompts you for that setting during iOS 5 device setup, too.

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