Smartphone giant _____ puts citizens' private data beyond reach of oppressive regime _____

And into the hands of _______ that also spies on people

Chinese Apple wannabe Xiaomi says it's spent much of the past year migrating its online services out of its Beijing data centers so that it can better serve customers in international markets.

The Middle Kingdom's smartphone upstart is virtually unknown in the West but is already outselling Samsung in China and has lately moved into Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Taiwan.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Hugo Barra – the ex-Google product manager who was, last year, tapped to become Xiaomi's global VP – said the company is moving into overseas data centers both to speed up its services and to better manage customer data.

"Our primary goal in moving to a multi-site server architecture was to improve the performance of our services for Mi fans around the world, cut down latency and reduce failure rates," Barra wrote. "At the same time, it also better equips us to maintain high privacy standards and comply with local data protection regulations."

Apple, which has accused Xiaomi of copying its smartphone designs but has trailed the Chinese firm in its home market, announced in August that it would host Chinese customers' data in local data centers. But Barra said Xiaomi has been working on expanding its global networking profile since "early 2014."

The project has been rolled out in phases. For the first phase, Xiaomi has been moving its global e-commerce platforms from Beijing to Amazon AWS data centers in California and Singapore and has started using Akamai's content delivery service to serve static pages. Barra said this has already resulted in a 30 per cent speed boost in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, and that performance in India has almost tripled.

Next, Xiaomi is moving its user accounts, messaging, and other cloud services to AWS data centers in Oregon and Singapore, which Barra said should further improve network speeds and latency, particularly in Malaysia and India.

Finally, Barra said that beginning next year, Xiaomi will explore moving some of these services to local data centers in each market where AWS is not yet available – and he hinted that this could include further expansion into Brazil.

The Chinese firm is also thought to be eyeing Mexico, Russia, Thailand, and Turkey for future growth.

Xiaomi's rapid rise is worrying for the incumbent smartphone giants, which so far have succeeded by selling high-end kit to rich countries. But with the majority of smartphone growth over the next few years expected to come from developing markets, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others are all finding themselves pitted against Xiaomi and its aggressive pricing – and Xiaomi shows no signs of slowing down. ®

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