Belgium’s Justice Ministry has warned the country’s lawmakers that products from Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi could be involved in spying efforts by the Chinese Communist Party.
Vincent Van Quickenborne wrote on behalf of the Justice Ministry that the company’s products present the “risk of undesirable data transfer” to the Chinese government. He cited a 2020 report published by Forbes that showed the Redmi Note 8 phone manufactured by Xiaomi transferred browsing data to Chinese servers.
Van Quickenborne also documented a Lithuanian cybersecurity agency’s claim that Xiaomi smartphones include software that can censor specific phrases that are politically sensitive to the Chinese government. The software can detect and censor information about Taiwan, Tibet, and other issues of interest to the Chinese. Lithuania also described significant security flaws built into electronic devices made by Huawei, a Chinese tech giant.
Taiwan’s National Communications Commission has also said that the Mi 10 smartphone made by Xiaomi has the power to censor data. The device reportedly includes seven built-in apps filtering through thousands of politically sensitive terms. If censored terms are detected in a web document, the device can block those pages from being displayed. It can also transmit a user’s internet browsing history to Chinese servers. The commission said it would alert the Taiwan government of any regulatory breaches.
Although Xiaomi has a limited presence in US markets, the Pentagon has attempted to “blacklist” its ties to the Chinese military and communist government. A federal judge blocked that effort, ruling that the Department of Defense failed to prove the manufacturer is affiliated with the Chinese government.
Notwithstanding the court’s ruling, there have been some clear indications that Xiaomi is connected to China’s military. The court’s ruling does allow Americans to invest in Xiaomi, which the Pentagon blacklisting would have prohibited.
Lithuania and Taiwan continue to lead the effort to bar Xiaomi products from democratic nations. The US and the European Union would be well advised to continue the fight against Chinese spying through everyday electronic devices.