A US senator called for answers Thursday from the maker of a hidden program that tracks activity on smartphones without users knowing or being able to stop it.
Senator Al Franken sent an open letter to California-based Carrier IQ as smartphone titans Apple, Nokia, and Research In Motion (RIM) distanced themselves from the company's controversial software.
"This is potentially a very serious matter," Franken said in the letter.
"It appears that Carrier IQ's software captures a broad swath of extremely sensitive information from users that would appear to have nothing to do with diagnostics -- including who they are calling, the contents of the texts they are receiving, the contents of their searches and the websites they visit."
If Carrier IQ stealthily snoops in ways detailed by smartphone security researcher Trevor Eckhart, it could be breaking federal law, the senator said in his letter.
Franken enclosed a list of questions for Carrier IQ and requested answers by December 14.
He sought details regarding what information Carrier IQ recorded, what was done with it and how it was safeguarded.
Carrier IQ did not respond to requests for comment.
But on its website, it said that "while we look at many aspects of a device's performance, we are counting and summarizing performance, not recording keystrokes or providing tracking tools."
"The metrics and tools we derive are not designed to deliver such information, nor do we have any intention of developing such tools," it continued.