Table of contents
- Evidence of Chinese phones spying
- China Android collects more information than it’s supposed to
- Do Chinese phones have built-in spyware?
- What security risk can Chinese phones bring to you?
- How to prevent spyware on Chinese phones
- Final words
Evidence of Chinese phones spying
There is no evidence that China spies on phones. However, that doesn’t mean the Chinese government doesn’t spy on people through smartphones and other electronic devices. University researchers found that Android manufacturers collect user data in China.
China Android collects more information than it’s supposed to
University researchers found that leading Android manufacturers in China—Xiaomi, Oppo Realme, and OnePlus—compromise their devices to collect copious amounts of data from Chinese users through dangerous app permissions. The devices send that data to Chinese mobile network operators, device vendors, and service providers.
The study, titled Android OS Privacy Under the Loupe—A Tale from the East and published in 2023, found that these devices spied on users through preinstalled system software, vendor apps, and third-party apps, which granted “dangerous” privileges. Essentially, the devices were preloaded with spy apps to track users.
The data collected included sensitive and personally identifiable information (PII) without users’ consent, including the following data:
- Call history
- Phone numbers
- Phone and text metadata
- Geolocation, which reveals users’ locations
- Persistent device identifiers like MAC addresses and IMEI
If you’re wondering why this is a big deal, it’s because the private sector in China is closely tied to the Chinese government. It makes one wonder whether the Chinese government has access to this information and, if so, what it does with it.
Did you know?
In China, citizens must register their SIM cards with their IDs to activate their phone numbers. This means phone numbers can be used to uncover a user’s true identity in China.
Do Chinese phones have built-in spyware?
Yes, popular Chinese Android phones like Xiaomi, Oppo Realme, and OnePlus come with preinstalled spyware in the form of system apps and vendor apps. These apps collect and share users’ personal information without their knowledge or consent, including identifiers like their location.
The threat of spyware applies to people worldwide, no matter what device they use. So, even if the Chinese phone spyware issue doesn’t apply to you, you must protect yourself from the spyware threat.
Clario’s Anti Spy scan is an easy-to-use tool that helps you check your phone for spying threats. All you need to do is connect your phone to your computer and run the scan to identify and reduce spying threats.
Here’s how to use Clario’s Anti Spy scan:
- Download Clario AntiSpy on your computer, get a subscription, and set up an account.
- Select Mobile scanner in the sidebar and click Add device.
- Connect your Android phone to your computer using a cord and hit Scan.
- Clario AntiSpy will now scan your mobile device for malware threats.
- Follow the on-screen prompts to get rid of any threats that are found.
While using Clario AntiSpy is a good foundation for protecting your privacy, you must still practice safe internet and technology habits. Use a VPN and avoid sharing your personal information online. This will further help you protect yourself from spying.
What security risk can Chinese phones bring to you?
Buying an Android phone in China, especially from companies like Xiaomi, Oppo Realme, and OnePlus, puts you at risk of having your privacy compromised without your knowledge. The Chinese phones security risk means that any entity, from the Chinese government to mobile network operators and service providers like Baidu, can spy on you through the data collected by your device, and there’s no telling what they might do with it.
How to prevent spyware on Chinese phones
The most obvious solution is to avoid buying and using phones sold by the leading Android brands in China—namely, Xiaomi, Oppo Realme, and OnePlus. Even if their devices are cheaper in China, consider the risk to your privacy. Instead, consider buying smartphones from outside of China.
Using Chinese-made Android cell phones is a huge risk, given the security threats they pose. If you don’t live in China and aren’t using an Android device purchased there, you have less reason to be worried.
However, while the Chinese government might not be onto you, other parties can still spy on you if given the chance. That’s why it’s important to protect your privacy. Clario’s Anti Spy scan helps you keep spying threats at bay by identifying them early and securing your device.