My Arms Are Falling Off: Scandals Can’t Hurt Smartphone Manufacturers

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After analysis by two independent experts, Forbes has highlighted that Xiaomi communicates to its partners if you use your browser to access pornographic sites, even if the incognito mode is active.

I assume, however, that the manufacturer will sell its devices like hotcakes no matter what.

My knowledge of this Chinese manufacturer and the current figures confirm me in this assertion.

Strategy Analytics reports that the smartphone industry has declined by 17%. However, Xiaomi is not affected by this crisis.

In fact, it is the only manufacturer whose sales have not fallen compared to last year. Compared to Samsung, Huawei and Co., the trend for Xiaomi even seems positive.

The manufacturer is nibbling away at its competitors’ share of the smartphone market.

Xiaomi is thus securing a larger share of a cake that is getting smaller and smaller every time.

The press should be more upset by the fact that Xiaomi’s browser shares confidential information with Chinese e-commerce companies such as Alibaba.

The two independent experts even discovered that the browser analyses user behaviour and sends data in a poorly encrypted form.

Everything is anonymized, but a lot of metadata can be used to quickly find out the user’s identity.

There Is No Such Thing As “Bad Publicity”

In the meantime, Xiaomi has modified his browser and denied the accusations of the experts and the journalist in charge of the investigation.

But the consequences for public opinion are there. In Germany, for example, the online magazines Heise and Golem have already addressed the issue.

Hundreds of thousands of people now associate Xiaomi with data protection issues.

But readers who were not familiar with Xiaomi can now potentially be interested in the brand’s products, especially since the company has used cunning and intelligence in its crisis communication.

The matter will quickly be forgotten, since the solution is to no longer use the browser in question.

No one will question Xiaomi’s moral integrity for this reason, nor will they change phones for so little.

This scandal brings us back to the debate led by journalists and privacy experts around the manufacturer OnePlus.

At the time, it was a privacy scandal that resulted in a very poor communication from the brand. Xiaomi should at least make sure not to mimic this bug.

However, small data protection scandals will not affect Xiaomi in the near future, as the general situation in the smartphone sector is hopeless anyway.

The browser's gonna be Xiaomi's doom?
The browser’s gonna be Xiaomi’s doom?

Privacy, What Is It?

In the meantime, we have learned that some countries store, evaluate and market our profiles on social networks.

But at the same time, this has in no way hindered the registration or use of these types of platforms. A quick reminder, though:

  • Facebook/Insta/WhatsApp puts us in touch with our friends.
  • Google/Apple/Microsoft/Amazon synchronize our photos/contacts/emails/appointments.
  • Telekom/Vodafone/O2 somehow transports our data from A to B.
  • Chipsets and modems from Qualcomm/Apple/Samsung/Huawei/MediaTek somehow calculate and transport all the information.

While we can escape the first three constraints by using other alternatives or VPN services, we can’t do anything about our dependence on chipsets or other modems – unless we use a Librem 5.

The architect of the open source smartphone, Nicole Färber, told us in an interview three years ago that consumer smartphones make us “increasingly vulnerable”.

Even government players don’t control the manufacturers although they potentially have access to all the keys to our encryption.

The development of Librem 5 is progressing slowly. The choice of hardware by open source players is causing a series of problems that are testing the patience of early buyers and investors.

What Xiaomi Really Needs To Do

Since Xiaomi purchases most of its chips from Qualcomm, the San Diego-based provider is ultimately responsible for the confidentiality of user data.

Chip manufacturers must therefore prohibit smartphone manufacturers from doing what they want.

The secrecy surrounding modem firmware must end and it must be possible to control which device accesses memory for what purpose.

At the same time, we must promote open source computing, which is still a counter-project to the commercial dominance of computer products.

And who knows, maybe one day there will be a smartphone with a real incognito mode.

That’s where manufacturers like Xiaomi could step in. In cooperation with open source projects.

They could both reduce their dependence on Qualcomm or MediaTek and gain the trust of their most distrustful customers (especially those interested in data protection).

The budget is there. All that’s missing is the will…

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