Update, May 20 2020 (9:16AM ET): Xiaomi previously released an update to its browsers that let you enable or disable data collection while in incognito mode. But it turns out that the wording alongside the toggle gave many the impression that it was an opt-out process (i.e. that data collection while in incognito mode is enabled by default).
The company has since confirmed to Android Authority that data collection in incognito mode is disabled by default (i.e. opt-in). Xiaomi added that it has submitted app updates to the Play Store to clarify the setting.
You can read the full rundown on Xiaomi’s browser privacy changes over here.
Original article, May 4 2020 (5:53AM ET): Xiaomi has responded to recent allegations of privacy and data collection malpractices by updating the Mi Browser, Mi Browser Pro, and Mint Browser.
The company was under fire from users and cybersecurity experts after a Forbes report detailed how its browsers collected a worrying amount of user data.
According to the report, cybersecurity experts found that Xiaomi’s browsers recorded all web browsing data of a user, even in incognito mode. What was more worrying that the researchers presented evidence that the data, including unique device identifiers, was being sent to remote servers with “easily crackable encoding.”
“Taking browser behavior, including URLs, without explicit consent and in private browsing mode, is about as bad as it gets,” a security researcher noted in the Forbes report.
Xiaomi denied the allegations and said that all the data that it collects is sent to its servers in an anonymized fashion. Xiaomi also denied that browsing data was being recorded under the incognito mode.
As per the company, it collects “aggregate usage statistics data” in incognito mode. This includes: system information, preferences, user interface feature usage, responsiveness, performance, memory usage, and crash reports. This data cannot be used to identify an individual, the company argued in response to Forbes’ report.
Mi Browser, Mint Browser updates
As part of a further response, Xiaomi is now introducing a new setting for the incognito mode on the Mi and Mint browsers. This new setting will let users control aggregated data collection in incognito mode.
The latest versions of the browsers are: Mi Browser/Mi Browser Pro v12.1.4, and Mint Browser v3.4.3. These updates should now be available on all the browsers on the Google Play Store as well as their pre-loaded versions.
Xiaomi was also accused of collecting data about folders, screens, and settings opened on its phones by users. The company hasn’t clarified much about this practice, except a generic statement saying “all collected usage data is based on permission and consent given explicitly by our users.”