Xiaomi updates cloud messaging after privacy scare

Encrypting data, off-by-default

Chinese mobe-maker Xiaomi has changed the defaults on its cloud messaging service, in response to concerns raised by F-Secure that it was storing users' private data.

At issue is a service provided for its Mi phones, which was switched on by default until the over-the-air update was issued. In this blog post, F-Secure notes that the phones send carrier name, IMEI, phone number, and contacts to a Xiaomi server when switched on – and that it was sent unencrypted.

The service is intended to operate as an over-the-top messaging app: if there's an IP connection available, it will route messages over that, using SMS as a fallback. While that requires that numbers pass through the Xiaomi servers, the privacy scare related to how long that data might be kept by the company.

In response, Xiaomi's VP Hugo Barra has offered an explanation on Google+.

“MIUI Cloud Messaging uses SIM and device identifiers (phone number, IMSI and IMEI) for routing messages between two users, in the same way as some of the most popular messaging services”, he writes. “Users’ phonebook contact data or social graph information (i.e. the mapping between contacts) are never stored on Cloud Messaging servers, and message content (in encrypted form) is not kept for longer than necessary to ensure immediate delivery to the receiver.”

However, in response to the F-Secure post, he adds that the service will no longer be switched on by default. After running the over-the-air update, users will have to turn the service on manually.

“We apologize for any concern caused to our users and Mi fans. We would also like to thank the media and users who have been sending us feedback and suggestions, allowing us to improve and provide better Internet services”, Barra writes.

He added that the update also turns on encryption for numbers sent to the Xiaomi servers. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Xiaomi adds earthquake alert system to some smartphones
    Customers in Indonesia promised warning of wobbles sooner than is otherwise possible

    Xiaomi has added an earthquake alert system to some of its smartphones, starting with a trial in Indonesia, as a result of a collaboration between the smartphone maker and Indonesian and Chinese government-supported agencies.

    Available on handsets running versions 12, 12.5 and 13 of Xiaomi's "MIUI" Android fork, the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) feature alerts users in Indonesia of nearby tremors – if they have data service and authorize the service.

    The Chinese phone-maker claims the system "gives people seconds to tens of seconds warning time prior to the arrival of secondary waves, by leveraging the speed of electric waves that is naturally much faster than the speed of secondary waves."

    Continue reading
  • Smartphone shipments expected to drop again for Q1 2022
    Samsung, Apple gain market share while everyone else loses amid economic uncertainty

    For the smartphone industry, the first quarter of 2022 is looking like a repeat of Q1 2020, in which economic uncertainty triggered by world events led to a double-digit shipment slump. 

    This time around, researchers at Canalys are projecting an 11 percent drop in shipments, rather than 13 percent, and the causes have shifted from being purely about COVID-19 to include the Russia-Ukraine war, rolling lockdowns in China, inflation, and the traditional dip due to slow seasonal demand. 

    Despite all those uncertainties, Canalys's Sanyam Chaurasia said Apple and Samsung "accelerated their growth by broadening device portfolios for 2022." The iPhone 13 continues to be in demand, Chaurasia said, as does the iPhone SE, while Samsung has lured customers with new A and S-series flagship devices.

    Continue reading
  • Chip shortage to end this year – at least for us: Xiaomi
    China's smartphone and IoT gadget champ says it might even see a glut by 2023

    Chinese smartphones-and-more manufacturer Xiaomi believes its silicon supply chain will return to normal in the second half of 2022 – and by next year it may even have an embarrassment of riches to consider when it shops for components.

    Speaking on the company's Q4 2021 earnings call, company president Wang Xiang said "the supply situation will be improved in 2022 – especially in the second half of 2022. In the first half, especially in Q1, we are still facing a great challenge in supply. But starting from Q2, the supply situation will be changed significantly. Q3 and Q4, we'll have a lot of supplies."

    Xiang added that a year from how he expects no problems, and possibly even an oversupply of the components the company needs to crank out its kit. The president predicted that logistics issues will also ease.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022