A couple of days ago we reported on some rumors that Xiaomi’s RedMi Note device was allegedly sending off collected personal user data to Chinese servers, after only having connected to them without the users knowledge. As we stated then, this was mentioned by some of the company executives when they announced the Mi 4 not too long ago, and it was brought up that the connection to Chinese servers while in wifi mode was part of the Mi Cloud service that is built into Xiaomi’s newer devices. This is also a service that can be turned off and is completely at the digestion of the user themselves, so they have the choice to disable the Mi Cloud service, or not enable it all from the beginning as it is set to “off” by default. Xiaomi has responded further on the claims of this alleged user data collection, as Hugo Barra took to Google + today to post an entire Q and A.
In reference to the question about whether or not Xiaomi uploads personal data without the users knowledge, Barra states that the answer is No, and that “Xiaomi offers a service called Mi Cloud that enables users to back up and manage personal information in the cloud, as well as sync to other devices. This includes contacts, notes, text messages and photos. Mi Cloud is turned off by default. Users must log in with their Mi accounts and manually turn on Mi Cloud. They also have the option to only turn on backup for certain types of data. The use and storage of data in Mi Cloud fully respects the local laws of each country and region. Strict encryption algorithms are implemented to protect user privacy”. Barra also states that a specific article also left out important information regarding the matter of whether or not MIUI actually collects personal data and uploads pictures and messages, and then he references an original discussion had on the Xiaomi Hong Kong Facebook page which you can find the link for in Barra’s post.
The original discussion which Barra says was taken out of context, was not actually claiming Xiaomi and MIUI commit these sorts of acts, but was merely asking questions about the connection to the server, to which Xiaomi’s response was that in short, it was their Mi Cloud service, which requests”public data from Xiaomi servers from time to time. These include data such as preset greeting messages (thousands of jokes, holiday greetings and poems) in the Messaging app and MIUI OTA update notifications, i.e. all non-personal data that does not infringe on user privacy.” While there will likely still be some people skeptical about the whole scenario being that it popped up at all, lots of other devices and companies who manufacture these devices have similar services going on. Google offers cloud services and user collection data is sent to servers all the time to better serve users with targeted and personalized ads. Most people don’t bat an eye, and Google is right here in the U.S.
The point is, this was pulled completely out of context most likely because Xiaomi is a Chinese company. Conspiracy theories and perhaps prejudices aside, every major tech firm and device OEM likely has a service similar to Mi Cloud that doesn’t garner this kind of attention, yet they without a doubt do the exact same things that were being discussed here. Furthermore it shows some level of respect for customers that the companies VP would take to the community to respond to these claims and converse with the people in the comments thread about the whole situation. Ironically, none of this seemed to have hurt Xiaomi’s sales as the Mi 4 is said to have sold out faster than one can blink an eye, despite concerns of privacy in regards to the RedMi Note. Xiaomi is just like any other company out there that has millions of customers. They take customer privacy seriously. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have this many customers in the first place.