Over the past month, I've written multiple articles discussing the problems facing the wireless carrier industry. Confronted with increasingly complex, carrier-overriding technology from handset manufacturers, and with an ever-increasing amount of customer dissatisfaction, I've argued that giants like AT&T and Verizon are on a precarious path.
Until recently, carrier control has been borderline monopolistic. They have been able to progressively hike prices, and withhold consumer-benefiting technologies without much consumer or manufacturer recourse. But this is slowly beginning to change. As manufacturers grow in influence, the carriers do not have the latitude they once had to exert complete control.
In this situation, the Carrier IQ scandal may prove to be the straw the breaks the camel's back.
As evidence mounts, Carrier IQ appears to be software implemented for the carrier -- not the manufacturer. While it is unclear what, exactly, is transmitted from affected phones, the scale and breadth of the data collection is alarming.
The news of Carrier IQ's privacy threatening software has not quite hit mainstream channels yet, but it is only a matter of time before people become aware. When it does, this scandal has the capacity for full-blown disaster for carriers. Consumer tension with carriers is, and always has been, palpable, and the revelation of extensive privacy invasion? Well, it could mark the beginning of significant changes in the wireless industry.
As I've said, manufacturers are working toward carrier disruption, but what I had not considered was the consumer. I had written off the average user as being unable of provoking significant change in the industry. But with the Carrier IQ scandal, if it spreads, user outrage could be a catalyst for significant overhaul and change.
Tracking some user information? Understandable. Keylogging, and capturing SMS and email? Much different.
Whether the entirety of this information is sent or not is unclear, but the mere fact that the potential is there is cause for concern. Unlike some other carrier issues, the secret collection of personal information is something that the average user can easily comprehend, and express outrage over.
Regulatory commissions, users, and manufacturers will suddenly be confronted with the true nature of their wireless carriers, and without significant change, their true nature is unlikely to go unscathed.
Of course, this is sadly contingent on whether the mainstream media picks up on this scandal at all.