Usually, Huawei is the Chinese OEM in the midst of privacy and security issues. However, the past few days, Xiaomi has been put through the wringer after a Forbes article showed that their Mi Browser was collecting data even in incognito mode. They have finally issued an official statement, denying these claims and clarifying what kind of data they are collecting from users. They have also called the article “incorrect news, saying Forbes has misrepresented facts about their policies and practices.
The short version of the Forbes article basically says that two security experts have determined that the Xiaomi collects information from users like websites they visited, search queries, and items viewed in the news feed. This happens even when a user has turned on the incognito mode which will supposedly not collect anything from the users to give them a “safe and untraceable browsing mode”. The report also says that the data is sent to remote servers in Singapore and Russia and that it also applies to other Xiaomi browsers like Mi Browser Pro and Mint Browser.
Xiaomi’s official response of course denies all these and says that the privacy and internet security of its users has been one of its top priorities. They explained that they are collecting two types of data: aggregated usage statistics (system info, preferences, responsiveness, etc) and user browsing data syncs. They only collect the latter when a user signs in to their Mi account and the data sync function is turned on. They denied that user data is collected in Incognito mode as only the aggregated usage statistics are collected during this time. They also emphasized that the data collected is anonymized.
Forbes has updated its article to include a link to Xiaomi’s official post but it looks like they’re still unconvinced since they are still collecting data about the users’ phones which they say can eventually be traced to a specific person. Xiaomi has also announced that their Mint Browser and Mi Browser will be getting a software update that will give users an option in incognito mode to turn on and off the aggregated data collection. The update has rolled out for users through the Google Play Store.
Given Xiaomi’s defense of its data collection and privacy practices as well as the evidence from the researchers, it really is now up to the users to choose which side to believe. If you’re a Xiaomi user, there are still a lot of browsers out there available for you if you feel like the Mi Browser is not the safest one to use right now.