In a move that is sure to gain praise from proponents of data privacy, Sprint recently began removing the Carrier IQ tracking software from the mobile devices of many of its more than 53 million subscribers.
Last month, the company, the third-largest wireless carrier in the nation, disabled the controversial application that comes embedded in many smartphones and other mobile devices. The latest announcement from Sprint, however, demonstrates the company's commitment to upholding the data privacy rights of its customers.
"As we are no longer using the tool, we have decided to remove Carrier IQ from all devices through a maintenance release process," Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge told MSNBC in an email. "The tool will be removed through an over-the-air software update process."
According to MSNBC, Sprint is the first of the four major U.S. carriers to announce the removal of the software, though Verizon Wireless does not use it in the devices it offers. Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile has disclosed their intentions regarding Carrier IQ, the report stated.
Carrier IQ caused a fervor among data privacy advocates and mobile users alike in November when its data-gathering applications were accused of violating users' privacy. It was discovered that the software had been installed on more than 140 million devices, and Concerns were expressed over the data security of consumers using phones unknowingly running Carrier IQ, as well as the general lack of transparency practiced by the software's developer and the carriers utilizing it.
Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile claim to use the information collected by Carrier IQ harmlessly, but that has done little to quell ongoing concerns. It was discovered that the software is capable of doing everything from logging keystrokes and tracking location data to recording telephone calls and retaining text messages.
According to the MSNBC report, Sprint has said that users of the Android-powered HTC Evo 3D will be among the first to have the software removed.
But the problems for Carrier IQ are ongoing and have reached near the top of the U.S. government. Members of Congress, including Representatives Henry Waxman of California, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Diana DeGette of Colorado, recently sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan, urging him to open an investigation of Carrier IQ and similar applications.