Of late Xiaomi has been the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. Last week, a report from Forbes stated that cybersecurity researcher Gabi Cirlig accused the Chinese smartphone manufacturer of collecting user data and recording their behaviour including websites visited and search queries in Google. Soon after Xiaomi released an official statement and called the claims “untrue”. However, the latest update rolling out to Mi Browsers suggests a completely different story.
In the latest blog post, Xiaomi announced that it is rolling out an update to both Mint Browser and the Mi Browser Pro that adds a setting to disable the “aggregated data collection” while in incognito mode. However, the “Enhanced Incognito Mode” will be available in the Settings and not be enabled by default.
The cybersecurity researcher discovered that tracking continued even when the phone’s browser was set to private mode or “incognito” mode. Even though the researcher presented no evidence that the anonymous ID used by Mint and Mi Browser were linked to individual accounts or people, he did point out that the ID didn’t change over time, or at least not over a few days.
The report further cited that multiple security researchers said that Xiaomi was collecting information on unique numbers identifying a device as well as the version of the Android OS it is running. Xiaomi refuted the claims and termed the whole thing as a misunderstanding in a blog post. It said that “the research claims are untrue” and that “privacy and security is of top concern.”
Here’s the “anonymised” request from a few minutes ago:
Note the uuid. pic.twitter.com/Ew6ekzRXc4
— Cybergibbons (@cybergibbons) May 2, 2020
The smartphone manufacturer agreed to the fact that it was collecting browsing data but it said that the data was anonymized. The company said that it does not collect any data without user permission and that all data is “aggregated and cannot alone be used to identify any individual.”
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Xiaomi also said that it “strictly follows and is fully compliant with local laws and regulations on user data privacy matters.”
“Under incognito mode, user browsing data is not synced, however, aggregate usage statistics data […] is still collected,” Xiaomi noted.