Kirk, Wyden Request Probe of FBI Usage of Wireless Tracking Software

Sens. to Inspector General: 4th Amendment Protects Americans from "Unlawful Search and Seizure"

WASHINGTON - Following reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may be using mobile tracking software to monitor Americans' cell phones and mobile devices without their knowledge, United States Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today sent a letter to the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Justice requesting an investigation of the alleged secret surveillance. The software, developed by Carrier IQ, has reportedly been pre-installed on nearly 150 million mobile devices and an FBI spokesman recently declined to say whether the FBI was collecting data generated by the software.

The Kirk-Wyden letter requests that the Acting Inspector General determine:

  1. Has the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency requested any data collected by Carrier IQ software, either directly or from a third party that received the data?
  2. Has the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency used any data collected by Carrier IQ software in any investigations?
  3. If so, what types of data have been used and how?Has this information ever been collected or used by a federal law enforcement agency without the agency having first obtained a warrant for such information?

Background:

In October, Sen. Kirk joined Sen. Wyden as a co-sponsor of the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act which provides sorely needed legal clarity for the use of electronically-obtained location data that can be used to track and log the location and movements of individual Americans. The GPS Act, which would update 25 year-old data surveillance legislation, requires the government to show probable cause and obtain a warrant before acquiring the geolocational information of a U.S. person, while maintaining clear exemptions in the case of emergency or national security situations or cases of theft or fraud. The GPS Act would make it a crime for the FBI to use electronically-obtained geolocation information, such as the information Carrier IQ collects, to track a suspect without a warrant.


The full text of the Kirk-Wyden letter to the Inspector General is below.


December 16, 2011

Cynthia A. Schnedar
Acting Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Acting Inspector General Schnedar:

We are deeply concerned by the December 14, 2011, report in Forbes entitled "FBI May Use Carrier IQ to Track Suspects". According to the report, software developed by Carrier IQ, which has been automatically installed on millions of mobiledevices, collects and transmits potentially sensitive data from users' devices. If true, we view this as an unacceptable violation of users' privacy. However, we are even more troubled by the FBI's refusal to clarify whether it has used this software for domestic surveillance purposes.

The Forbes article also reported that the FBI denied a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request for any materials used by the Bureau to analyze or access data gathered by Carrier IQ software, and an FBI spokesman subsequently declined to say whether or not the FBI was usingthis software for domestic surveillance purposes. We are concerned about the possibility that the FBI could be using this software to obtain sensitive personal geolocation information, and thereby track the movements of Americans without a warrantissued by an independent Federal judge. We would like to clarify whether this is the case.

We, therefore, request that you investigate this matter to determine the following:

  1. Has the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency requested any data collected by Carrier IQ software, either directly or from a third party that received the data?
  2. Has the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency used any data collected by Carrier IQ software in any investigations?
  3. If so, what types of data have been used and how?
  4. Has this information ever been collected or used by a federal law enforcement agency without the agency having first obtained a warrant for such information?

Under the Fourth Amendment, every American is protected against unlawful search or seizure by the government. We appreciate your timely response to this important matter as we seek to ensure that Americans' constitutional rights are not being violated.

Sincerely,

Mark Kirk Ron Wyden
US Senator US Senator