Xiaomi apologizes for taking user contacts lists without permission


Xiaomi has apologized after it was found to be uploading contacts lists to its servers without obtaining permission from its users. The Chinese company insists that protecting user data and privacy is a “top priority,” and it has now made its MIUI Cloud Messaging service optional.

MIUI Cloud Messaging is Xiaomi’s answer to Apple’s iMessage, and it works in much the same way; messages are routed through the company’s servers, allowing users to communicate over the Internet and avoid traditional SMS charges. Until now, the service was activated automatically when users set up their phones.

But a recent report from a computer security firm F-Secure found that during the activation process, Cloud Messaging was uploading users’ contacts lists to Xiaomi’s servers without first asking for permission. The findings became a big concern for users after they quickly became news across Taiwan.

Xiaomi Vice President Hugo Barra has since taken to Google+ to apologize.

We believe it is our top priority to protect user data and privacy,” Barra said. “We do not upload or store private information or data without the permission of users.”

Barra also published a lengthy Q&A that aims to explain how MIUI Cloud Messaging works, how it handles phone numbers, and how it relates to the privacy concerns raised by F-Secure.

A recent article in Taiwan and a related report by F-Secure raised privacy concerns by stating that Xiaomi devices are sending phone numbers to Xiaomi’s servers,” it reads. “As we believe it is our top priority to protect user data and privacy, we have decided to make MIUI Cloud Messaging an opt-in service and no longer automatically activate users.”

Xiaomi has already begun rolling out a software update that implements this change, and Barra promises that phone numbers sent to its servers will be encrypted and deleted. If you no longer want to use Cloud Messaging after installing the latest update, you can disable the service from within the Messaging app.