Xiaomi Under Investigation Regarding Cybersecurity Worries

Chinese phone maker being probed over data-sharing policy

The Taiwanese government has announced it is launching an investigation into apparent cybersecurity issues concerning mobile devices from Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi.

According to a statement from Taiwan’s executive branch, some Xiaomi phones are automatically sending user data to the firm’s servers in Beijing, where the company is headquartered, without user consent, leading to a risk of possible cybersecurity breaches.

Xiaomi has declined to comment on the statement.

The investigation marks the latest into a Chinese firm by foreign governments, which are increasingly suspicious of potential cyber-attacks emanating from the country. China and Taiwan has endured a rocky relationship in the past, with the former historically regarding the latter as a breakaway province which should be governed by the mainland.

600px-Xiaomi_logo.svgGrowing presence

Hong Kong’s public broadcaster quoted the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office as expressing dismay over Taiwan’s decision, saying “one cannot stop the attractiveness of Xiaomi phones among compatriots across the strait.”

A critical verdict in the investigation could lead to a potential ban on Xiaomi products in Taiwan, which has formed a key part of the company’s expansion outside of China, along other Far Eastern markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The company is little known in the west, but currently makes up 27 percent of the Chinese smartphone market, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, ahead of the likes of Samsung (which has 21.1 percent).

The probe follows an initial report by security firm F-Secure last month, which first found that Xiaomi’s cloud messaging service was sending phone, SIM and contact information to a server in China without user consent.

Company vice-president Hugo Barra, who joined Xiaomi from Android last year, apologised for the breach, saying that it was a “top priority” to protect user data and privacy.

What do you know about IT in China? Take our quiz!