If you remember, in my last post I explained the cheat code to successfully book a Xiaomi phone through FlipKart. You could sense how excited I was after cracking it in the first attempt that I made. Well the excitement didn’t last long as a couple of my friends pointed out, “You bought a Xiaomi Phone? Didn’t you know it sends all your data secretly to China!!”
So I thought what the hell, let’s understand both side of the story and analyze it.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has reportedly issued an advisory asking its personnel and their families not to use Xiaomi smartphones on account of ‘spying’. IAF personnel and their families have been asked not to use Chinese ‘Xiaomi Redmi 1s’ phones on the grounds that data was allegedly transferred to their servers in China and it could be a security risk.
Based on a test by security application manufacturer F-Secure, the IAF issued the alert saying Xiaomi phones port the phone number, carrier name, IMEI number, plus numbers in the address book and text messages to some suspicious IP address in Beijing.
More or less wherever you read the article, it would be on the similar lines. Data is allegedly being sent to Xiaomi China Servers. Do you agree that I got the allegation right ? This got me thinking, “Is it safe to use Xiaomi Phones in India?”
Is it only Redmi that sends your data to some Server ?
Before I proceed with this section I want to make it absolutely clear that I am in no way related to Xiaomi. Whatever I say below is my personal opinion. I could be 100% wrong as well.
That said, I am a Computer Science Graduate with about 9 Years in IT industry, so I think I can throw some light here.
So if you have noticed earlier, I marked the word Allegedly in bold. Yes, it means no one knows it for sure that what data it sends and to whom the data is being sent to.
Do you guys know about these terrific features these modern day phones offer
- Sync Contacts
- Sync Settings
- Sync Photos/Files
- Sync Messages
- Find My Phone
I am sure you will say, Hell Yeah, My Nokia / iPhone / Samsung phone does have all of them. That’s what make these phones smart, Right.
Do you know how the data magically appears back on your phone when you perform a Factory Reset, which typically deletes everything from your phone? What the Sync function magically does to bring the data back?
Well all your data are securely stored in the cloud services provided by the Mobile OS provider. For iOS it is iCloud, for Android its Google (Drive, Contact etc.) and for Windows its OneDrive. So when you choose to enable the SYNC feature, your phone sends the data to the cloud to store it there, keep it safe, accessible from any device if the correct User ID and Password is provided. They also encrypt the data so that no one can read/understand the data and that ensures your data privacy.
Are you with me this far? Do you agree to what I said till now?
Lets Connect the Dots
Xiaomi is a phone company which is about 4 years old and based out of China. I won’t be surprised at all if all of their data centers are located in China.
Xiaomi also offers services like Xiaomi’s iMessage and MIUI Cloud messaging service. By looking at the name of these services you can guess that these will send data to Xiaomi Data Centers since it is cloud based offering. You can also say since it is called iMessage, it would store the messages, contact details to keep the SYNCed data meaningful and appropriate.
Now go back and read the F-Secure Test result data and their claim. I personally don’t think it’s anything alarming at this point of time.
Xiaomi has also mentioned that it has plans to come up with more Data Centers across the globe in order to address the performance related issues. In that case your data will be sent to multiple countries. SO does it really matter where the data is being sent really?
Still not convinced? Disable the Mi Cloud Messaging
After the recent software upgrade, new users or users who factory reset their devices can enable the service by visiting “Settings > Mi Cloud > Cloud Messaging” from their home screen or “Settings > Cloud Messaging” inside the Messaging app — these are also the places where users can turn off Cloud Messaging”.
Happy now? Let us know what do you think? Do you think my explanation makes sense or you have a different theory?
Let me know in the comment section below.