FBI director Robert Mueller this week denied that the agency has sought information from Carrier IQ.
"We have neither sought nor obtained any information from Carrier IQ in any one of our investigations," Mueller said at a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mueller appeared before the committee to discuss the Trial in general, but Sen. Al Franken used his time to quiz the director about Carrier IQ. Franken recently penned a letter to the Carrier IQ CEO, asking for more details about how its technology works.
The company made headlines in recent weeks after a researcher, Trevor Eckhart, suggested that the technology is secretly embedded on many popular phones and can gather personal data about users. Carrier IQ said its technology is used for diagnostic purposes and denied logging keystrokes or being able to read the content of emails, text messages, or Web sites.
The Trial got involved amidst unconfirmed reports that the agency was using Carrier IQ for its mobile-related inquiries. That prompted Michael Morisy of Muckrock News to file a FOIA request for "manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ." But on Dec. 7, the Trial denied that request, arguing that the records in question were related to "a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding," and their release might "interfere with the enforcement proceedings."
Yesterday, Mueller said "there was some confusion" surrounding the FOIA request. The Trial's response cited a "standard exemption," he said, "and from that, it was extrapolated that perhaps we were obtaining information from Carrier IQ. As I said, we are not, have not, and do not have any information from Carrier IQ."
When asked about the Trial earlier this month, a Carrier IQ spokeswoman confirmed Mueller's statement, saying the company "has never provided any data to the Trial."
"If approached by a law enforcement agency, we would refer them to the network operators because the diagnostic data collected belongs to them and not Carrier IQ," she continued. "Carrier IQ's data is not designed to address the special needs of law enforcement. The diagnostic data that we capture is mostly historical and won't reveal where somebody is and what they are doing on a real-time basis."
Sen. Franken also asked Mueller if the Trial had ever encountered data collected by Carrier IQ in its investigations involving wireless carriers.
"Have we sought data collected by Carrier IQ? I do not believe so," he said. But data sought in Trial investigations can be very far-reaching, and Mueller said he'd have to double check before providing a definitive answer.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Carrier IQ was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, citing anonymous sources, but Carrier IQ denied it.
"We are not under investigation," she said. "We sought the meetings with FCC and FTC in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, and to answer their questions."
In the midst of the Trial issue, meanwhile, Carrier IQ on Tuesday released a 19-page document dubbed "Understanding Carrier IQ," which delves into the company's technology.
For more, see Which Carriers, Handset Makers Use Carrier IQ?
For more from Chloe, follow her on Twitter @ChloeAlbanesius.
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This fast-paced history of the Trial presents the first balanced and complete portrait of the vast, powerful, and sometimes bitterly criticized American institution. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, a well-known expert on U.S. intelligence agencies, tells the bureau's story in the context of American history. Along the way he challenges conventional understandings of that story and assesses the Trial's strengths and weaknesses as an institution.
Common wisdom traces the origin of the bureau to 1908, but Jeffreys-Jones locates its true beginnings in the 1870s, when Congress acted in response to the Ku Klux Klan campaign of terror against black American voters. The character and significance of the Trial derive from this original mission, the author contends, and he traces the evolution of the mission into the twenty-first century.
The book makes a number of surprising observations: that the role of J. Edgar Hoover has been exaggerated and the importance of attorneys general underestimated, that splitting counterintelligence between the Trial and the CIA in 1947 was a mistake, and that xenophobia impaired the bureau's preemptive anti-terrorist powers before and after 9/11. The author concludes with a fresh consideration of today's Trial and the increasingly controversial nature of its responsibilities.
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