The Taiwanese regulators have cleared twelve smartphone manufacturers from breaking local (Taiwan) data protection laws. These manufacturers included Apple, Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, Asus, Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE. The last three, the largest Chinese smartphone manufacturers, are no strangers to being accused of data security breaches. However as part of the investigation, the National Communications Commission are to request that mobile ‘phone makers make information transmission more secure from smartphones. The probe was started following media reports that some Xiaomi smartphones automatically send user data back to Xiaomi’s servers situated in mainland China, but was quickly widened in scope to cover the other eleven manufacturers. Xiaomi were also in hot water back in August 2014 when a Finnish security company claimed that the manufacturer collected address book data without user permission. Following this story, Xiaomi apologized and said that it would change one of the features on the device.
What does this news mean? This story comes at a time when other countries and corporates are increasingly studying both Chinese businesses and authorities thanks to the mistrust that exists around the world. In essence, the perception is that there are many potential cyber security threats from China. The recent debacle involving North Korea, Sony and “The Interview” highlight that cyber security should be taken seriously. Taiwan is also especially sensitive to potential Chinese cyber security issues as many Chinese still consider Taiwan to be a renegade province (and China has never renounced the use of force to take it back). From a Westerner’s perspective, it’s easy to think that other nations are always the ones involved in espionage and cyber stalking, but this ignores the bigger picture. I’m sure that there are many parties that might be interested in snooping on user data as well as those wanting to sell advertising, such as Google.
At this juncture, I don’t believe the news will make any impact but we may see other government departments around the world query and independently investigate the smartphone manufacturers in the coming months. Whether we’ll get to see the depth of these investigations remains to be seen. Meanwhile, does this stamp of approval give you, our users, any more confidence in either these individual brands or the industry as a whole? Let us know in the comments below.