OnePlus, Xiaomi, and Oppo smartphones from China are spy machines!

According to a recent study, manufacturers of the top Chinese Android cellphones gather worrying amounts of data that can be linked to specific people.

China is the largest smartphone market in the world where more than 70% of devices run on Android. Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dublin have discovered that OnePlus, Xiaomi, and Oppo Realme smartphones transmit enormous amounts of data to numerous parties without permission from users.

How are the phones used to spy

The companies sell the phones with several pre-installed vendor and system apps with risky privileges.  They gather and send personally identifiable data about a device’s persistent identifiers, location, user profile, and social connections.

Researchers examined the OPPO Realme Q3 Pro, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, and OnePlus 9R.

The studies assumed that the owner was a consumer who valued privacy and despised analytics, cloud storage, and optional third-party services.

These phones may transmit data that is exclusive to you and your device, like:

  • Examples of such are IMEI and MAC addresses
  • Location markers like GPS coordinates that can show where you are right now
  • Your personal preferences and data, including your phone number, app usage trends, and performance social information such call and SMS history and contact information

Key problem

Users cannot opt out of this data transmission, and they are not informed that it is happening.

Companies use this information for tracking and de-anonymized to reveal a person’s identity. They also send Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to service providers like Baidu.

The bad thing is that data gathering practices do not alter even after a user leaves the country, so consumers who purchased their devices in China, including business travelers and students, should exercise caution.

Silver lining

Customers in other markets shouldn’t be concerned because the analysis was only done on mobile devices running local Android distributions that were sold in China.

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