It has been just over three months since the Carrier IQ “spygate” epidemic engulfed the mobile world. As smartphones and tablets become more powerful, consumers are becoming even more concerned with their mobile privacy as numerous smartphones have been found to track users’ locations, phone calls, text messages and even which websites they visit. While the companies that used Carrier IQ’s tracking software claimed it was for diagnostic purposes, the service was promptly removed from “infected” handsets. Verizon, which never used Carrier IQ, in the past two days has updated two Android handsets to include a new “Remote Diagnostics” tool, which some fear may be the next big privacy concern. Read on for more.
Both the LG Revolution and DROID Charge received small updates that included, among bug fixes, a new feature that would deliver “enhanced customer support with Verizon Remote Diagnostics.” Verizon claims the tool will improve customer service and will be used when a customer calls the carrier for customer support. Then, with the customer’s permission it will allow a customer service representative to remotely view a user’s device for “device training, application demonstrations and troubleshooting.”
Unlike Carrier IQ, however, the software “does not run in the background.” And while the software cannot be removed from a device, Verizon spokesman Albert Aydin told BGR that “it only runs when a customer calls support and gives permission to use it.”
“The tool will not run unless a customer gives explicit permission during a call with customer support,” Aydin confirmed. “If customer support suggests using the tool as a way to diagnose a problem the customer will see a notification on their device after customer support initiates the Verizon Remote Diagnostics tool. A customer will then see a permission request directly on their device along with ‘terms and conditions’ and an ‘Accept’ or ‘Reject’ button. A customer will need to select ‘Accept’ in order for the tool to run. Customers are free to select ‘Reject’ and the tool will not run.”
Verizon is planning to add the new Remote Diagnostics utility to more smartphones this year.