Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp’s (小米) Mi 10T 5G smartphones have built-in censorship capabilities and can transmit user data to servers at its Beijing headquarters, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said on Thursday evening.
The Telecommunications Technology Center, a think tank run by the commission, conducted a test in October last year on the model sold in Taiwan after the Lithuanian National Cyber Security Center on Sept. 21 last year informed the NCC of the device’s censorship capabilities.
The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense last year advised Lithuanians to avoid Chinese cellphones and dispose of any they own after discovering the software.
“Our test showed that a program [MiAdBlacklisConfigur] can be downloaded from the servers of globalapi.ad.xiaomi.com through seven built-in applications on the Mi 10T 5G smartphone, which targets a long list of politically sensitive terms and can block the smartphones from linking to related Web sites. These apps can also transmit users’ Web history to servers in Beijing,” the NCC said in a statement.
The software can detect and block terms such as “Free Tibet,” “Taiwan independence” and “independent media in Hong Kong,” or terms related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party, the commission’s test showed.
The NCC said it expressed its concern over the software to Xiaomi Taiwan on the same day it was informed by Lithuania.
NCC said the company told it in an e-mail that the 10T smartphones sold in Taiwan are different from those in Europe, and assured the agency that the devices Taiwanese consumers purchase do not monitor or censor users’ communications, or restrict their Internet searches.
“Judging from the test results, we will continue our investigations to determine if Xiaomi Taiwan has compromised the interests of Taiwanese users by invading their privacy. We will inform relevant agencies if the company contravenes regulations enforced by other administrative authorities,” the commission said.
The NCC unveiled its test results so that the public can know the personal privacy risks of using Xiaomi smartphones, it said.
Article 14 of China’s National Intelligence Law stipulates that Chinese citizens and enterprises are obligated to support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence work, the NCC said.
Unlike smartphones made by other manufacturers, the 10T devices do not allow users to turn off tracking functions, the commission said.
Although targeted terms have been removed from the company’s servers, the manufacturer could remotely reinstall the software, it said.
Xiaomi said that it “has never, and will never” limit, block or collect data when users conduct searches, make calls, browse the Internet or use third-party communication platforms and software.
The company said that the MiAdBlacklistConfig file manages paid advertisements for Xiaomi apps, adding that it also protects users from inappropriate content, such as hate speech, or depictions of violence, sex and information that might prove offensive to local users.
Such software is widely used by smartphone companies and social media platforms, it said, citing Facebook’s and Google’s advertisement policies.
Xiaomi is dedicated to the protection of its users’ privacy and data security, it said, adding that it uses the highest standards to regulate its operations and fully complies with local and regional laws and regulations.
Additional reporting by Yang Mien-chieh
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