The Lithuanian Defence Ministry has asked its citizens to stop buying phones produced by Chinese companies over allegations of censorship. The ministry pointed out Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G in particular, claiming that the phone had built-in censorship features.
This is based on a report by the National Cyber Security Centre (via) of the Lithuanian Defence Ministry. The cyber security agency reportedly tested phones from multiple manufacturers and detected censorship capabilities on the Mi 10T 5G.
The report went on to state that around 449 terms were censored. This includes terms like ‘Free Tibet’, ‘Long live Taiwan independence,’ or ‘democracy movement,’ and several others. Some of Xiaomi’s apps, including the native browser, can reportedly track the usage of these terms.
Officials said the censorship feature was off for customers in the EU
Lithuania’s Vice Minister of National Defence, Margiris Abukevičius said, “Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible.”
Officials said that the feature was off by default for customers in the European Union. But they said that Xiaomi had the capability to switch it back on remotely. The report also claims that Xiaomi sent encrypted phone usage data to a server in Singapore.
The agency reportedly detected a security flaw in Huawei’s P40 5G smartphone. Meanwhile, officials couldn’t detect any such issues with OnePlus devices.
“This is important not only to Lithuania but to all countries which use Xiaomi equipment,” the report warned.
Xiaomi rejected the claims of the Lithuanian security agency, saying that it doesn’t engage in censorship. “Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviors of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software,” the company said in a statement.
Responding to the allegations of sending encrypted phone data to a server in Singapore, Xiaomi said that it “complies with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.”
This episode is unlikely to mend the relationship between Lithuania and China. Taiwan’s recent decision to rename its Lithuanian mission as the ‘Taiwanese Representative Office’ enraged China.
China eventually asked Lithuania to recall its ambassador in Beijing while saying that it would do the same with its ambassador in Vilnius. Xiaomi is one of the top 3 smartphone producers in the world, so this news could have a serious impact on its brand image across Europe.