OnePlus Limits Its Intrusive Data Collection Practices After User Complaints
Last week we reported about a research that revealed the massive amount of data that OnePlus was collecting from its users without putting in efforts to anonymize it. Security researcher Christopher Moore had published a report sharing that the company was collecting IMEI numbers, phone numbers, MAC addresses, IMSI prefixes, serial numbers, mobile network name(s), when a user launched/closed an app, screen on/off time, and the time when user locked or unlocked their phones, among other similarly intrusive data.
In its response to this excessive data collection program, the Shenzhen based phone manufacturer had said that it collects device information "to provide better after-sales support." The company has now posted a detailed response to this research, saying that it will stop collecting some of the information and introduce a new prompt that will ask users if they want to join the "user experience program."
By the end of October, all OnePlus phones running OxygenOS will have a prompt in the setup wizard that asks users if they want to join our user experience program.
By opting out of this program through the prompt that will be released by the end of this month, the company won't stop collecting information. It will just mean that "your usage analytics will not be tied to your device information." In its statement, the company also added that it will no longer collect "telephone numbers, MAC Addresses and WiFi information" but doesn't explain why it did so for the past several years.
While it's refreshing to see a company quickly respond to user privacy concerns, privacy conscious users will still find this statement a run-of-the-mill apology where the company cofounder Carl Pei called data collection practices in OxygenOS a "standard industry practice." On its part, OnePlus assures that no user information was ever shared with outside parties.
Here's Pei's statement in full:
We take our users - and their data privacy - very seriously. We want to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about data collection on OnePlus devices; explain what we are collecting and why; and map the changes we will make going forward to address your concerns. While data collection is a standard industry practice, we realize that our users have the right to understand how and why it is done. Please know that we take this matter seriously and will proactively take steps to improve going forward.
OnePlus devices using OxygenOS securely transmit analytics in two different streams, usage analytics and device information.
The reason we collect usage analytics through the user experience program is so we can better understand general phone behavior and optimize OxygenOS for a better overall user experience. At any time, users can opt-out of usage analytics collection by navigating to 'Settings' -> 'Advanced' -> 'Join user experience program'.
The reason we collect some device information is to better provide after-sales support. If you opt out of the user experience program, your usage analytics will not be tied to your device information.
We'd like to emphasize that at no point have we shared this information with outside parties. The analytics we're discussing in this post, which we only look at in aggregate, are collected with the intention of improving our product and service offerings.
By the end of October, all OnePlus phones running OxygenOS will have a prompt in the setup wizard that asks users if they want to join our user experience program. The setup wizard will clearly indicate that the program collects usage analytics. In addition, we will include a terms of service agreement that further explains our analytics collection. We would also like to share we will no longer be collecting telephone numbers, MAC Addresses and WiFi information.
We take privacy very seriously and do not share analytics with third parties. Our intention has always been to better serve our users. Looking ahead, we will continue working directly with our users to do so. We appreciate your patience and feedback.