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Carrier IQ Test: Android App Detects Controversial Software

A free Android app promises to scan your phone for traces of the controversial Carrier IQ mobile diagnostics program.

A free app to detect Carrier IQ, a controversial piece of software installed on smartphones without their owners' knowledge, was made available at the Android Market Friday.

Voodoo Carrier IQ Detector, while not completely finished and not 100 percent accurate, is still pulling in high ratings—4.8 out of 5 by 254 users. The app was written by computer forensics specialist Francois Simond in about four hours.

Simond created the app in response to alarming allegations by a researcher that a program, Carrier IQ, pre-installed on an estimated 140 to 150 million smartphones worldwide was, without the knowledge of the phones' owners, logging Web browsing and keystroke information.

Simond's app only detects the presence of Carrier IQ. Removing the program is more complicated. The researcher who discovered Carrier IQ's suspicious activity, Trevor Eckhart, has an app, Logging Test App, that will do the job, but it requires "rooting" Android, which can get complicated for the average user. It also requires the purchase of a key for $1 to get the app working.

Eckhart's allegations about Carrier IQ have been rebuffed by the company that makes the software. It maintains that the program doesn't log keystrokes nor does it gather intelligence on a phone's owner.

Meanwhile, two smartphone makers on which Eckert found Carrier IQ installed, HTC and Research In Motion, deny any association with the software and are blaming the carriers as the culprits in the matter. One carrier, Verizon, has stated that Carrier IQ isn't installed on its smartphones.

Google, the custodian of Android, has remained aloof from the situation. Reportedly, Google's Android models made by Samsung, the Nexus line, do not have Carrier IQ on them.

Not even Apple, with its walled ecosystem, has been able to avoid being sucked into the Carrier IQ controversy. Although the app has been installed on iPhones, it was disabled when version 5.0 of the company's mobile operating system, iOS, was introduced, and the software is expected to be completely removed from all iPhones when iOS is next updated.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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