Cheap Android phones are selling user data in developing countries
Data is collected and sold through the guise of a firmware update app.
User data and the privacy surrounding it has been a particularly hot topic this year, and while there’s been plenty of talk regarding it in the U.S., a new light is being shown onto this matter in developing countries.
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, an Android phone called the Singtech P10 that’s sold in Myanmar and Cambodia actively collects various bits of information from users of the phone and sells it to an advertising company called General Mobile Corp. (aka GMobi) in Taiwan.
Per The Wall Street Journal:
Taipei-based GMobi, with a subsidiary in Shanghai, says it uses the data to show targeted ads on the devices. It also sometimes shares the data with device makers to help them learn more about their customers.
As for what kind of data is being shared, it’s reported that the GMobi app gathers IMEI numbers, MAC addresses, and even location data that’s then sent off to GMobi servers over in Singapore.
Per Mark Groman, former Senior Privacy Adviser at the White House Office of Management and Budget:
They are exploiting developing economies and individuals who can’t afford better devices and clearly tracking them.
As WSJ continues:
Many popular smartphone apps collect user data such as contacts and even locations, but users typically install such apps, actively consent to the data collection and can delete the apps at any time. GMobi’s software comes pre-installed on new smartphones out of the box, and it can only be removed by taking elaborate technical steps.
GMobi’s website lists that it works with Huawei, Xiaomi, and BLU, but all three companies told The Wall Street Journal that they have never worked with the company (BLU did have a relationship with GMobi competitor Adups but has since terminated it).
There are certainly improvements we can make in the U.S. and other developed parts of the world when it comes to the way data is handled, but at the very least, we don’t have to deal with this sort of madness on a daily basis.
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