New research published by "Gizmodo" revealed that the best Android phones sold in China are full of spyware. The study showed that high-end Android phones sold in China are a total privacy nightmare.
The new research indicates that users of the best selling Android devices in China are having their personal data stolen on a massive scale. The theft of their personal data, which takes place without notice or consent, can easily lead to users being tracked and their identities easily exposed.
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A study published by computer scientists at several different universities revealed that phone makers such as Xiamoi, OnePlus, and Oppo Realme, some of the most popular phone makers in China, collect massive amounts of sensitive user data via their operating systems, as well as a variety of pre-installed apps on phones.
The data is also collected by a variety of other private actors, and researchers fear that the devices in question are "sending an alarming amount of personally identifiable information not only to the device vendor but also to service providers like Baidu and to mobile network operators in China." Given the close relationship between the private industry and the Chinese government, it's more than enough to raise the specter of broader surveillance concerns for mobile phone users in China.
The research pointed out that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube all suffer from service outages at the same time.
For the researchers, it's clear that there is some work to be done when it comes to respecting the privacy of Chinese users. "Overall, our findings paint a troubling picture of the state of user data privacy in the world's largest Android market, and highlight the urgent need for stricter privacy controls to increase ordinary people's confidence in technology companies, many of which are partly state-owned."
The researchers experimented with a number of devices purchased from manufacturers in China and performed network analysis on them to understand the relevant data leak. In general, the researchers assumed that the operator of the device would be a "privacy-conscious consumer," who chose not to send analytics and personalization data to service providers and not use cloud storage or "any other optional third-party services."
The personally identifiable information collected includes very sensitive things, including basic user information such as phone numbers and persistent device identifiers, geolocation data, and data related to "social connections" - such as contacts and their phone numbers, phone and text metadata, as found studying.
In other words, recipients of this data will have a very clear picture of who is using a particular device, where they are doing it, and who they are talking to.
Gizmodo has reached out to the phone manufacturers concerned to request comment. No response has been received from them as of the date of publishing this report.
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