China's Xiaomi engaging expert to assess Lithuania censorship claims

Xiaomi said that its device "does not censor communications to or from its users". PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi said on Monday (Sept 27) it is engaging a third-party expert to assess claims from Lithuania's government that its phones carry a censoring feature.

"While we dispute the characterisation of certain findings, we are engaging an independent third-party expert to assess the points raised in the report," a Xiaomi spokesperson said in a statement.

The announcement comes after Lithuania's defence ministry urged consumers to throw away Chinese phones last week, following a report published by Lithuania's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) alleging that Xiaomi phones have built-in censorship capabilities.

Xiaomi said at the time that its device "does not censor communications to or from its users".

Xiaomi did not specify which third-party organisation it was engaging to conduct the assessment. A spokesperson told Reuters it was an organisation based in Europe.

In response to the allegations of censorship, the company said it uses advertising software to shield users from certain content such as pornography and references that offend local users, a practice it described as standard in the industry.

The company also said with regard to data privacy, it was compliant with ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security Management Standards and the ISO/IEC 27701 Privacy Information Management System, two frameworks for following Europe's GDPR.

In its report, Lithuania's NCSC alleged that flagship phones sold in Europe by Xiaomi have a built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as "Free Tibet", "Long live Taiwan independence" or "democracy movement."

The capability in Xiaomi's Mi 10T 5G phone software had been turned off for the "European Union region", but can be turned on remotely at any time, the report stated.

Xiaomi emerged as the top smartphone vendor in Europe for the first time in the second quarter of 2021, shipping a record 12.7 million units in the continent, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

The company, along with other Chinese rivals on the Android operating system, has enjoyed a surge in market share following the enforcement of US sanctions against Huawei Technologies, which crippled its once-dominant smartphone division.

Relations between Lithuania and China have soured. China demanded in August that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing and said it would recall its envoy to Vilnius after Taiwan announced that its mission in Lithuania would be called the Taiwanese Representative Office.

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