2016 may be remembered as being unkind to smartphone makers, be it because of slumping, or at least plateauing, sales, or distinct problems and scandals that rocked even mainstream news. Miami-based BLU Products would have had a normal year if not for the one last minute issue that gripped its business. Security firm Kryptoware discovered and reported that some of the company’s smartphones used a particular piece of software sourced from China. And that piece of software regularly phone home with data collected for the sake of advertising. Or so the story goes.
Adups, the Chinese company who wrote the firmware updater used in some of BLU’s older smartphones, makes no qualms about its activities. It does have some code that harvested user data, but it was written at the behest of a Chinese OEM for their smartphones alone. It wasn’t meant to be present in units outside of the OEM, much less outside of the country. “Honest mistake” is what they claim it to be.
For its part, BLU says that it wasn’t aware that the specific Adups software they used behaved as such. To its credit, it worked frantically to fix the matter, though the damage to their image may have already been done. Now BLU CEO Sammy Ohev-Zion says that they explicitly told Adups they didn’t want the tracking functionality on their devices. So BLU was at least aware of Adups’ other “activities”. They just failed to do a proper security audit to make sure.
Moving forward, BLU promised to replace Adup’s OTA (over-the-air) updater with Google’s official tool for Android. One might wonder why BLU didn’t use the latter in the first place, sparing itself from embarrassment. The reason is because BLU started out with mostly unmodified but re-branded Chinese smartphones, which came with software specifically written for the Chinese market. In addition, its devices weren’t actually certified by Google back then. It has worked to replace those software bits and the Adups firmware update was actually one of the last parts to go. Unfortunately for BLU, the news came out before it had a chance.
Which is probably for the best, since users and BLU might have not been aware of the background activities if the report didn’t break in time. That said, it could have come at a worse time when the atmosphere between the US and China is quite charged over trade agreements. BLU itself might be facing potential lawsuits, even investigations, over the matter.
SOURCE: PC Mag