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July 24, 2017

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Redmi Note may leak data to China

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Chinese-made smartphone Redmi Note (紅米Note) was recently revealed by a Hong Kong cellphone forum to automatically connect to a mainland Chinese server unbeknownst to users, prompting various concerns regarding personal information being leaked to the communist government.

The phone is part of a line of smartphones launched by Xiaomi Inc. (北京小米科技有限責任公司), the largest privately owned mainland Chinese electronics company. Headquartered in Beijing, Xiaomi itself designs, develops and sells smartphones, mobile apps and consumer electronics.

According to Hong Kong cellphone discussion forum IMA-Mobile user Kenny Li, while the Redmi Note is in Wi-Fi mode, it will connect to a server with an IP address based in mainland China without notifying its user. After connecting to the Chinese server, the phone will upload photos, chat messages and information from the user.

Li also said that he discovered that even after removing the default software installed by Xiaomi, the Redmi Note still continues the automatic connection and the file uploads.

Reportedly, Li's findings have become a widely debated topic in Taiwanese forums. Taiwanese netizens allegedly attributed the problem to Xiaomi's built-in cloud service, stating that it is not surprising for Chinese-made products to be filled with glitches. However, some netizens also rebuffed the comments, stating that it is suspicious that the Redmi Note would continue to upload files even after a software reinstallation and replacement.

Xiaomi Explains Built-in Upload Feature

During the public announcement for Xiaomi new smartphone Xiaomi 4, the company addressed and responded to the recent discussions of the Redmi Note's automatic upload function, which connects to a Chinese server.

The company cited its users' agreement policy, stated that no invasion of privacy has ever occurred in their service and said that the alleged user information infringement is false and untrue.

Xiaomi did not, however, dismiss the automatic connection and upload feature and said that Redmi Note does not upload personal information from its users but only calculations of the user's personal preferences so that the company can send appropriate upgrade and app recommendations to their users so as to improve customer service.

The company also said that all phones come with automatic back-up and cloud features disabled, and they will only perform the functions with users' consent. Backed-up information will also not be used by the company or against the user, the company said.

In hopes of further guaranteeing the company's product safety, Xiaomi said that all of their services are in compliance with the privacy laws of the countries in which their products are sold. Complex encryptions and algorithms, the company said, also protect the products themselves.

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