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Xiaomi defends data collection practice, claims to be misrepresented

Xiaomi has long been praised for its phones that sell like pancakes because of their price tags. For years now, the Chinese manufacturer has established itself as a force to reckon with even outside its home market. A recent report, however, alleges that Xiaomi is engaged in the not so innocent practice of tracking users’ browsing activities. The company has now spoken up and is basically saying it isn’t doing anything that others aren’t doing already anyway.

Tracking browsing history and movement is indeed a well-known and notorious activity used for various purposes ranging from targeted ads to the usual improvement of the service/app. That’s why many browsers today offer ways to block such tracking, including an incognito or safe browsing mode. A report on Forbes, however, demonstrates how Xioami’s phones and its Mint Browser don’t do that, going as far as collecting aggregated user data even when browsing in incognito mode or using a different browser.

Xiaomi complains that its position on privacy and its process was misunderstood and misrepresented in the report. It doesn’t deny that it does collect user data even in incognito mode but stresses that it has taken every industry-standard measure to ensure the anonymity of that data. It also suggests that that data is stored on servers in overseas markets to address fears of the Chinese government accessing those pieces of information.

The company explains that the data it collects is only necessary for optimizing its browser and phones for loading sites and services faster, something it says is a common practice used by Internet companies. It also explains that syncing data across its browsers naturally requires that users upload data, just like what they would be doing for Chrome or Firefox. It doesn’t explain, however, why it decided to continue collecting that aggregated data even in incognito, defeating the purpose of that safe browsing option.

For the latter, Xiaomi has already rolled out an update for its Android browsers that give users the option to turn off that data collection in incognito mode. It does seem to suggest that users will have to know they’re being monitored in the first place before they can opt-out of something that shouldn’t be done in that mode anyway.