Xiaomi in trouble after admitting it puts ads in phones

A Reddit user recently shared his experience of seeing more-than-frequent advertisements in Xiaomi’s MIUI app, which also includes the music application and the settings menu.

The company has officially responded to the claim by issuing the following statement to an international media outlet.

Advertising has been and will continue to be an integral part of Xiaomi’s internet services, a key component of the company’s business model. At the same time, we will uphold user experience by offering options to turn off the ads by constantly improving our approach towards advertising, including adjusting where and when ads appear. Our philosophy is that ads should be obtrusive, and users always have the option of receiving fewer recommendations.”

Another Xiaomi user recently complained and issued the following query on the Android Central forums.

“Hi, I just got my new MIUI based XIAOMI phone, and it’s awesome. The problem is I get a whole screen pop up ads on my home screen every once in a while. I know this can happen from some apps but I didn’t install any app that i didn’t have on my Nexus 4, but it might be from apps that came with the MIUI, I really don’t know. Can anyone help please?”

Android Central replied and stated, “Welcome to Android Central! That’d be pretty annoying if the manufacturer’s own apps caused popup ads. What are the ads selling? Try booting into Safe Mode, which disables all 3rd party apps. If the popup ads go away, then something you installed is causing the popups. If they persist, then Xiaomi got some ‘splainin to do”.

Mobile advertisements – a major source of income

Mobile advertisements are one of the major sources of income for many businesses. According to emarketer, digital usage reached 5.7 hours per day in 2017, an increase of 0.3 hours (or 18 mins) from 2016. Decreases in the use of desktop and laptops are being partly offset by increased usage of mobile.

The latest figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) show mobile advertising growth continues to accelerate and increased 60.5 per cent to $83 billion in 2016 from $52 billion in 2015 – with mobile display continuing to drive major investment.

However, users who are virtually bludgeoned by mobile advertisements tend to stay away from applications which come with ads that become obstacles for them while using the application.

Bigger companies such as Samsung and Huawei are also known to have ads thrust on their users which make their software repellant at times.

How much does Xiaomi truly know about its users?

In terms of consumer privacy, has Xiaomi lost the trust of its customers, or is this just a trivial inconvenience?

When tech behemoths such as Facebook and Google have come under fire for not being transparent about how they use user data, should mobile companies also come clean about how they use consumer data and the level of capability they have?

The use of mobile or portable devices can increase the risk of data breaches and allow businesses to use consumer data without their knowledge for financial gains.

Companies which manufacture mobile phones, smartphones, and IoT based devices which are interoperable with other connected devices, subsequently use customer information to target accurate promotions online.

The question is – What rights do customers have with their data being used by mobile phone manufacturers, and what authority do those manufacturers have over user data?

Profit by Pakistan Today reached out to Xiaomi Pakistan for a comment on the matter but had received no response when this story was filed.

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Shoaib Pervaiz
The writer is an International Management graduate from Scotland with a background in Marketing. He writes about cybersecurity, e-commerce, technology, international trade, and the economy.
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