Xiaomi Releases a Fix to Address Privacy Scares
Xiaomi has faced all the spectrums of media coverage. From the good ones such as the phenomenal praise for being an innovative handset and equipment maker to the bad ones such as being an Apple copycat. Recently the company faced allegations of privacy lapse from its cloud messaging service. Some even alleged that Xiaomi was spying for the Chinese government. Xiaomi was fast on their feet to release an update that will try to put the hysteria to rest.
Here’s for some perspective on the news. A Finnish online security and Privacy Company called F-secure took it upon itself to inquire into claims of Xiaomi sending cloud based messages back to its servers in Beijing. What was more infuriating was the fact that the data that was being sent back was unencrypted, so anyone could intercept and sell it for profit. The data sent to the servers included phone’s carrier name, phone number, IMEI and even numbers and text messages back to HQ in Beijing.
The allegations were huge enough to harm the company’s potential consumer market, and hence, Xiaomi brings out this new upgrade. The MIUI cloud messaging service is a free SMS service. By routing messages via IP instead of using the carrier’s SMS gateway, the SMSes are sent free of charge. Xiaomi says it needs the data packets to determine if the message can be routed over the internet for free.
The issue was that the phone’s cloud messaging was enabled to be always on sync. Now with the new ROM update, folks who buy fresh Xiaomi or factory refresh their phones will have the option to enable cloud messages manually. So if you don’t want to use Xiaomi’s cloud service you can turn it off. The update also encrypts the data that is sent to servers so that it can’t be sniffed out for unscrupulous purposes.
Xiaomi’s VP Hugo Barra took to Google Plus (in an act of corporate transparency rarely seen) to explain the entire issue. He posted an in-depth FAQ’s in which he mentions that no user data or social graph is stored, and the messages leave the servers immediately to ensure quick delivery of the message. Hopefully with the new encryption and security update, Xiaomi can return to being a giant pain to competing smartphone manufacturers and an angel in consumer’s eyes.