Nine years ago, people started accepting Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone maker, while throwing all prejudices. In a relatively short period of time, the brand has grown outside of China to become one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world. Not only that, but it has also led the market share of smartphones in India for almost four years. Now the question Is Xiaomi’s Mi Browser Is Safe?
Is Xiaomi’s Mi Browser Is Safe?
Xiaomi browsers’ data tracking
A few days ago, security researcher Cirlig told Forbes that Xiaomi’s default browser (Mi Browser), Mi Browser Pro, and Mint browser record and send web data to remote servers in Russia and Singapore. However, its web domains are registered in Beijing.
Data collection includes Google search queries, web history, and even articles seen on Google News. The researcher mentioned that data collection continues even in the browser’s incognito mode.
The same monitoring behavior can be tracked on other Xiaomi smartphones. And web data isn’t the only thing Xiaomi is looking for: the researcher also found that the Chinese smartphone maker respects users’ behavioral habits. Is Xiaomi’s Mi Browser Is Safe?
What does Xiaomi say about this?
Of course, the first thing Xiaomi did was simply deny the claims and call the research “incorrect.” However, after a major riot, he said the data collected was “anonymous” and “aggregated”.
In a blog post, Xiaomi said that its aggregate usage information includes performance reports, memory usage, and other unconventional things.
However, according to Cirlig, the same aggregate data can be used to identify a single user if it is compiled with the phone’s “metadata”. Cybersecurity researcher Andrew Tierney later confirmed the same in a video.
In addition, Cirlg and Tierney both came out with video evidence that clearly shows Xiaomi recording user-specific web queries, despite using the Mi browser’s incognito mode.
Instead of addressing the videos, Xiaomi has released new browser updates, which include an alternative to stopping aggregate usage data collection in incognito mode.
It’s not over yet
My Browser Pro and Mint Browser collectively have over 20 million downloads. Moreover, Xiaomi’s default browser comes pre-installed on all Xiaomi smartphones, further increasing the user base.
Although the company has implemented an unsubscribe option from the aggregate usage data collection, it is limited to the incognito mode of Xiaomi browsers. In other words, Xiaomi still collects “aggregate data” from users using normal navigation mode.
Our other concern is that the undo option is disabled by default in browsers. Therefore, users who are not informed about this will not even notice the existence of such functionality. On her blog, Xiaomi writes, “the privacy and security of our users is a top priority,” but as we can see, the new lever is nothing more than a cascade of public relations.
Nothing has changed in the past. Xiaomi will continue to collect web data from people browsing normally. Even if they went incognito, it is difficult to know whether people will opt for aggregate usage data collection.
With all of this in mind, we believe we should stay away from Xiaomi browsers, which include the Mi browser, the Mi Pro browser, and the Mint browser.
“It’s much worse than any of the main browsers I’ve seen. Many of them take scans, but it’s about usage and flaws. Assuming browser behavior, including URLs, without explicit consent, and in private browsing mode, is almost as bad as it sounds. ” Tierney told Forbes.
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