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OnePlus user data tracking is not happening through badword.txt

By Jules Wang January 27, 2018, 2:20 am

As if OnePlus had any more room for mistakes, there is a controversy blooming over what data the company is collecting from its users — whether they’re aware or not.

Elliot Alderson, the “Mr. Robot”-inspired pseudonym for a grayhat hacker that found prior suspicious code from OnePlus, tweeted the following picture of text and a link to a dump of the full body full of references to “boss,” “grandma,” “in-laws,” and other relatives, positions and random terms.

This file was placed in the directory of OnePlus’s clipboard app on OxygenOS.

The thread that followed tied this file to others in a package created by a company called TeddyMobile which vends software for manufacturers to track user data like bank account numbers and IMEI from apps, texts and other background transmissions — a common practice in China. Popular unlocked phones seller BLU has had scuffs on its record for dealing with such vendors and putting tracking firmware unbeknownst to customers until media reports revealed the practice.

Here’s the thing, though: whatever parsing OnePlus and TeddyMobile are doing for clipboard copy-pastes is only intended for Chinese users. OnePlus caters to both international and domestic audiences with its devices through its software skins on top of Android — OxygenOS and HydrogenOS, respectively.

So, why was “badword.txt” found in OxygenOS?

In a statement to Android Police‘s Artem Russakovskii, the company confessed that it didn’t do the best job cleaning up code between versions:

Furthermore, it’s claimed that data collected from HydrogenOS users does not leave the device.

Badword.txt contains keywords marking data that is not be collected in the context of the clipboard app.

This isn’t even the first time OnePlus’s copy-paste mechanism has been scrutinized for data dumping as the HydrogenOS version of the app had been put onto Open Beta software for the OnePlus 3T just two weeks ago.

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