Update (10/13/17): OnePlus founder Carl Pei wrote a blog post addressing the data-gathering controversy. He provided the same explanation the company did after it was discovered that OxygenOS collects data and stores it with individual profiles. Pei, however, did say a change is on the way.
Here’s what OnePlus plans to do:
“By the end of October, all OnePlus phones running OxygenOS will have a prompt in the setup wizard that asks users if they want to join our user experience program. The setup wizard will clearly indicate that the program collects usage analytics. In addition, we will include a terms of service agreement that further explains our analytics collection. We would also like to share we will no longer be collecting telephone numbers, MAC addresses, and WiFi information.”
OnePlus, based on that paragraph, will be issuing a software update soon to let users know what information is grabbed by their phones.
Neither Pei nor OnePlus apologized for making customers uncomfortable. Instead they emphasized the importance of privacy and security.
You may not like it, but pretty much every product and service you use is gathering data about your behavior. OnePlus, however, seems to have taken data-gathering way too far. A security researcher in the United Kingdom has discovered OnePlus’ devices are collecting user data and linking it to specific devices and accounts. That means everything you do is completely identifiable with your name.
The security researcher, Chris Moore, points out that OnePlus knows a lot including what you’re doing and when. Phones made by the Chinese company are picking up on unlocks, apps used, Wi-Fi networks connected to, and more. That’s not quite the problem. A bunch of companies pick up on the same information. It’s the fact that OnePlus isn’t hiding much about you. OnePlus is putting together a profile with this information that includes your name.
Here’s part of OnePlus’ response:
“We securely transmit analytics in two different streams over HTTPS to an Amazon server. The first stream is usage analytics, which we collect in order for us to more precisely fine tune our software according to user behavior.
It looks at though, according to OnePlus, that the data gathered by its devices is used to benefit software updates. If that explanation sounds a little too shady to you, there’s a solution. OnePlus allows you to unenroll from the “user experience program” in the settings of OxygenOS.
The second stream of analytics, meanwhile, is for device information that aids in after-sales support. OnePlus needs to know a bit about the device you’re using in order for its customer service team to be effective.
It’s a good thing that OnePlus is letting users remove themselves from the data-gathering, but most of them probably have no idea that their devices are doing so in the first place. OnePlus should make the option visible during device setup.