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Please update your XiaoMi Mobile Devices! Important Privacy Updates!

Xiaomi Privacy

Please update your XiaoMi Devices Urgently!

What Happened?

Xiaomi has updated the Mi Browser, Mi Browser Pro, and Mint Browser with an improved “incognito” mode that allows users to switch on or off “aggregated data collection” , which was found by security researchers last week. The new updates notably come days after the Chinese company claimed news reports misinterpreted the findings of the researchers. Xiaomi has not, however, issued any statement on the other tracking issues that the researchers raised.

A recent (30 April 2020) Forbes exclusive piece detailed how Gabi Cirlig, a cybersecurity researcher, discovered that his Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 was quietly tracking his Web browsing habits and his phone usage while sending all that data to remote servers. Further investigations by another researcher, Andrew Tierney (at the request of Forbes), found that it’s not a device-specific issue. Both of Xiaomi’s web browsers – Mi Browser Pro and Mint Browser – collect user data, and the issue persists across the Xiaomi devices they’ve tested.

Xiaomi has since put out a series of official statements and a dedicated response to Forbes to address the issues raised in the piece. In their Forbes’s reply, Xiaomi confirmed that it collected anonymised web browsing data of its users with their consent. However, Xiaomi denied that their web browsers were collecting data in incognito mode and sending the information to remote servers despite video evidence. Instead, the company said that it’s a standard industry practice that helps improve the browsing experience by analysing said information.

Search results after unpacking the data collected by the Mint Browser. Source: Andrew Tierney.

Search results after unpacking the data collected by the Mint Browser. Source: Andrew Tierney.

Attention Xiaomi Users!

You Should immediately change the newly introduced #PRIVACY setting in your Mi/Mi Pro/Mint browsers to prevent the company from spying on your web history & online activities when browsing in INCOGNITO mode.

Read details: https://t.co/3PTLTb1t7a#tech pic.twitter.com/gTq33QAQzW

— The Hacker News (@TheHackersNews) May 5, 2020

What Should You Do?

Aggregated data collection is disabled by default. You can, however, check whether you’ve got the improved incognito mode on your Xiaomi browser by going to Settings > Incognito mode settings from the browser. You’ll see the Enhanced Incognito mode option that once enabled allows Xiaomi to collect your browsing data, including the search queries you pass on through Google and other search engines.

You can download the updated Mi Browser Pro and Mint Browser for your Android device directly from Google Play. However, for MIUI users who have pre-installed the Mi Browser, which they can’t uninstall as well, an update will gradually be available over-the-air that could be installed manually by going to Settings > System apps updater.

From saying ‘fake news’ to ‘software update’
Xiaomi initially refuted the Forbes report citing the security researchers Gabi Cirlig and Andrew Tierney revealing privacy concerns on the Mi Browser, Mi Browser Pro, and Mint Browser. The company said, “We feel they have misunderstood what we communicated regarding our data privacy principles and policy.” Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Kumar Jain also posted a video and a note stating that the details showing the Mi Browser collecting unnecessary information while browsing and sending the user data to other countries “is incorrect and not true.”

Conclusion

As of 4 May 2020, Xiaomi has since updated several browser apps of their making, such as Mi Browser, Mi Browser Pro (both v12.1.4), and Mint Browser (v3.4.3) with a button to opt-out of ‘aggregated data collection’ when in incognito mode.

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