As concerns about China and its tech giants potentially building data back doors into their products that could jeopardize the national security of other countries, Lithuania is urging its people to throw away their Chinese phones, especially those developed by Huawei or Xiaomi, and refrain from buying new ones.
Censoring Phrases and Transmitting Data
As per a report released by the country’s defense ministry, Xiaomi smartphones that are manufactured in Europe apparently come with a built-in tool that can detect and censor certain phrases like “democracy movement,” “Long live Taiwan independence,” or “Free Tibet.” The feature has specifically been reported in Xiaomi’s Mi 10T model, and while it is switched off by default, it can easily be turned on remotely.
Lithuania’s deputy defense minister Margiris Abukevicius has advised citizens to get rid of their Chinese phones as urgently as possible, and to not buy any other Chinese phone in the near future.
Xiaomi’s models apparently also transmit encrypted data pertaining to the phone’s usage, to a Singaporean server, says the security report prepared by the country’s National Cyber Security Center.
Legislation Coming Up
Huawei has taken to denying the allegations, saying that it doesn’t transmit any data to outside locations. Meanwhile, Xiaomi claims that it doesn’t censor communications from or to its users. The company has issued a statement to the effect, saying that Xiaomi “has never and will never” censor or restrict any “personal behavior,” including calls, searches, and browsing, or even the use of third-party communication softwares, of its users.
The Defense Ministry in Lithuania is trying to come up with a legislation that would ban public institutions from making use of “untrustworthy” equipment, including smartphones. The bill will probably be presented to the Parliament by the end of this year.
Abukevicius has spoken regarding the same, saying that the impending legislation would most likely have “consequences” that are similar in nature to those brought about by an earlier law regarding 5G equipment.
Last year, India had banned a number of Chinese mobile applications, citing potential threats to national security. Many other countries have been calling out companies like Huawei out for allegedly building a data back door into its devices, in a bid to spy on its users and transfer the data back to servers in China. Xiaomi too, has faced similar scrutiny, but continues to be the second-biggest phone maker in the world after Samsung.