Research shows that these terminals obtain data even when you return abroad and even when the operator is changed or there is not even a SIM card.
The risks of buying a mobile in China
These security recommendations are based on research carried out by Haoyu Liu (University of Edinburgh), Douglas Leith (Trinity College Dublin) and Paul Patras (University of Edinburgh), and suggest that the leakage of private information represents a serious traceability risk for mobile phone customers in China, even when traveling abroad in countries with stricter privacy laws.
In an article titled «Android OS Privacy Under the Magnifying Glass: A Tale from the East«the trio of university scientists analyzed the Android system applications installed on the mobile phones of three popular smartphone providers in China: OnePlus, Xiaomi and Oppo Realme.
The researchers looked specifically at information transmitted by the operating system and system applications, to exclude user-installed software. They found that Android phones from the three vendors mentioned «send a worrying amount of personally identifiable information (PII) not just the device vendor, but also service providers like Baidu and Chinese mobile network operators.”.
The phones tested did even when these network operators did not provide service: no SIM card was present or the SIM card was associated with a different network operator.
“The data we observe being transmitted include persistent device identifiers (IMEI, MAC address, etc.)location identifiers (GPS coordinates, mobile network cell ID, etc.), user profiles (phone number, app usage patterns, app telemetry), and social connections (call/SMS/time history, contact phone numbers, etc.)”state the researchers in their article.
The collection of data from these devices does not change when devices leave China, the researchers say, despite jurisdictions beyond the Middle East applying stronger data protection regimes. The researchers argue that this means the cited phone providers and some third-party providers can track Chinese tourists and students abroad and learn something about their contacts beyond their borders.
More pre-installed apps
Another of the researchers’ findings is that there is three to four times more pre-installed third-party apps on Chinese Android distributions than on basic Android from other nations. These apps get eight to 10 times more permissions for third-party apps compared to Android distributions outside of China.
“Overall, our findings paint a troubling picture of the state of user data privacy in the world’s largest Android marketplace and highlight the urgent need for stronger privacy controls to increase ordinary people’s trust in technology companies, many of which are partly state-owned»the researchers conclude.
This does not mean that the same thing happens in the international versions that we can buy in our stores, since these are certified at the community level and it is verified that all European legislative measures regarding privacy are applied.