Hugo Barra defends Xiaomi in recent user data privacy debacle

By July 31st, 2014 AT 12:59 AM

Recently, there was a huge outcry over the internet about a report which stated that Xiaomi smartphones secretly upload user data such as text messages and photos over to MiCloud, infringing user data privacy. Hugo Barra, Vice President of Xiaomi’s for international markets, has come forward to clarify Xiaomi’s stand on user data privacy.

MiCloud, Xiaomi’s back-up service, uploads user data such as call logs, text messages, notes and photos to the cloud. This data can be used to sync user data across multiple Xiaomi devices owned by the user.

As per Barra, MIUI does not secretly upload photos and text messages. MiCloud is turned off by default and users need to log in with their Mi accounts and manually turn on MiCloud. Users can turn off this service easily from within the device settings menu if they don’t like their data getting uploaded to Xiaomi’s servers.

Barra says, “Xiaomi is serious about user privacy and takes all possible steps to ensure our Internet services adhere to our privacy policy. We do not upload any personal information and data without the permission of users. In a globalized economy, Chinese manufacturers’ handsets are selling well internationally, and many international brands are similarly successful in China – any unlawful activity would be greatly detrimental to a company’s global expansion efforts.” 

Hugo Barra states that other data which is uploaded to Xiaomi servers include preset greeting messages (thousands of jokes, holiday greetings and poems) in the Messaging app and MIUI OTA update notifications. All this data is non-personal which does not infringe on user privacy.

This user data privacy issue surfaced over the internet at a crucial time, when Xiaomi and a lot of other Chinese brands like Gionee are selling smartphones in huge numbers. Looks like consumers still have trust issues with these brands just because of their Chinese origin. According to me, even Google tracks a lot of user data from using Android smartphones but people have little to complain about it, just because they ‘trust’ Google. Have you ever wondered how Google Now is able to provide accurate information every single time?

Xiaomi should spend a little more time to explain users about the value proposition of uploading their data on MiCloud and try to reassure their users that their data is safe, even though it is stored on Xiaomi’s servers.

What do you think about Xiaomi’s user data privacy debacle? Do you use any other service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. to back up personal data? Let us know your thoughts about those services.

Computer science engineer turned technology blogger. Following consumer electronics industry closely from 2006, he can now predict pretty much where the market is heading. He has a dream to own Android, Windows Phone and iOS smartphones all at the same time.

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