Xiaomi, the largest selling smartphone brand in India, is sending private user data to the servers in home country, China, reported Forbes in an exclusive story. The Chinese smartphone brand accounts for more than one-fourth of the total new sales in India and has become a dominant player in the last few years, overtaking the Korean giant, Samsung.
As per the report by Forbes, Xiaomi is sending all the private data of users to servers hosted by Alibaba, another Chinese tech giant. The search data is reaching the Chinese tech giant even if the user browses in incognito mode. “It’s a backdoor with phone functionality,” said Gabi Cirlig, a cybersecurity researcher. “My main concern for privacy is that the data sent to their servers can be very easily correlated with a specific user,” he warned.
Cirlig alleged that the Redmi Note 8 phone he is using recorded all the websites he accessed, and all his queries through Google or any other search engine.
Xiaomi is the fourth-largest smartphone maker in the world after Samsung, Huawei, and Apple; and accounts for 9 per cent of the global market. But in the developing countries like India, its market share is pretty high, as the users could afford only cheap phones.
This is a particularly big concern for India as every third or fourth young user has a Xiaomi Smartphone and has given access to all secure clauses due to ignorance or has been forced to do so by the company for the proper functioning of the phone. Xiaomi phones do not operate properly until the user logs in the MI account, through which the company accesses all the data of the users.
However, Xiaomi denied all the allegations in an email response to the Indian media house Hindustan Times. “Xiaomi is disappointed to read the recent article from Forbes. We feel they have misunderstood what we communicated regarding our data privacy principles and policy. Our user’s privacy and internet security is of top priority at Xiaomi; we are confident that we strictly follow and are fully compliant with local laws and regulations. We have reached out to Forbes to offer clarity on this unfortunate misinterpretation,” said Xiaomi in an email reply.
This is not the first time Xiaomi has been accused/caught in data theft. Earlier in 2014, a cybersecurity firm F-Secure found that Xiaomi phones send all the information stored in the phone, like contact number, messages, and IMEI number of a handset to server in China.
India is the second-largest smartphone market in the world after China. The major players are Xiaomi (28 percent), Samsung (24 per cent), Vivo (10 per cent), Oppo (8 per cent), and Micromax (5 per cent). In 2018, the Smartphone market grew by 19 percent in terms of revenue and 10 percent by shipment units. Samsung has maintained the leadership in the Indian market for almost a decade but it was toppled by the Chinese giant- Xiaomi. The company plans to maintain its leadership through a huge investment in expanding its ‘offline presence’.
However, the company has been caught red-handed in data theft many times which dwindles its credibility among users. In fact, all the Chinese companies, including telecom giant Huawei have been caught in data theft, and this has become a major concern for countries around the world. Huawei has been banned in the United States and many other western countries after it was found that the company supplies Pentagon secrets to the Chinese military. Since then, the US had pushed all the countries to ban Huawei.
Chinese companies are seen with a high degree of suspicion given the absolute state control over private companies, from whom the Communist government could take the crucial data anytime it wants. This revelation is a major blow to China which is already facing the wrath of the countries around the world for handling of Coronavirus pandemic.