Data siphoning by Chinese ad sellers continues on in Asia

Domestic smartphone seller BLU had a tussle the past couple of years after it was revealed that it was working with a company called Shanghai Adups for firmware updates when, in fact, that firmware allowed the company to harvest location, message and all sorts of other data. It wasn’t exactly clear how the company would be able to utilize and profit off the data given that the firmware didn’t directly show users ads based off of the data, but it opened the eyes of many who were looking to get a smartphone on a tight budget.

In Asia, the business of implicit data gathering and ad-selling continues on and one example of that, as The Wall Street Journal reports, is the Singtech P10. The phone, which made its way mostly in Myanmar and Cambodia, has firmware that frequently funnels personal data to Taiwanese company General Mobile Corp.

GMobi, as it is known, claims, like its cohorts, that it uses the data for targeted ads and to give device manufacturers references on what their customers prefer. However, experienced privacy researchers are concerned about exploiting the poor with these profit-making methods.

General Mobile says it partners with Huawei, Xiaomi and BLU, though each company told The Journal that they’ve never had a relationship.

Even when consumers learn about the data they generate and where it goes, the question remains: what do they consider worthwhile on the internet that reasonably costs their GPS coordinates or the contents of their direct messages and what are the unintended consequences of spreading that around?

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.