Xiaomi admits to putting ads in the settings menu of its phones

Screenshot: chootingfeng / Reddit

Xiaomi, the world’s fourth biggest smartphone vendor, has attracted some unwanted attention for its use of advertising throughout its Android software experience, called MIUI. A Reddit user recently posted about their disappointment with the increasing frequency of ads showing up in Xiaomi’s MIUI apps, including the music app and even the settings menu.

When The Verge reached out to Xiaomi for confirmation on this matter, the company responded with the following statement, while also clarifying that it only applies to its devices running MIUI and not its Android One phones:

“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 and by constantly improving our approach towards advertising, including adjusting where and when ads appear. Our philosophy is that ads should be unobtrusive, and users always have the option of receiving fewer recommendations.”

Most people familiar with Xiaomi already know that the company’s business plan isn’t built around making a profit from hardware sales. Xiaomi sells phones at breakthrough prices, such as the new Pocophone F1, primarily as a means to get people using its services and to steer them toward its other online and retail ventures. In that context, the company’s attitude of treating advertising as an essential part of its operations makes sense. But Xiaomi runs the risk of alienating users if it fails to live up to its goal of “unobtrusive” ads. The Reddit user in question noted that they disabled the so-called recommendations option that pumps out these ads, however that didn’t stop them from appearing.

Xiaomi is far from the only advertising offender on the Android platform. Samsung, which is much better off and charges much higher prices, has also been guilty of spamming its users, and there’s a plethora of notification-pushing bloatware out there that might not technically be advertising but is just as disruptive and repellant. Amazon might be the only company that has the right approach about this: it sells phones at an ad-subsidized price and gives users the option to pay more to ditch the ads.

Comments

Im sure a lot of folks in emerging markets like India won’t mind

Yeah, same in China, it is incredible how inured people there are to the most intrusive advertisments ever. And people usually simply don’t mind. They have speakers installed in the supermarket fridges and when you walk by they literally scream ads at you at ear shattering volumes. In mobile shopping apps like taobao you get screen filling ads every two minutes or so you can’t click away for a few seconds. Absolutely infuriating. The advertisment culture in general is just extremly irritating from a westerners perspective. So some ads in the phone’s setting would already qualify as a pretty toned down ad experience in China.

They have speakers installed in the supermarket fridges and when you walk by they literally scream ads at you at ear shattering volumes.

Ive seen those!!

People get used to things as serious as loss of limbs, over time (hedonic adaptation), so I’m sure anyone can get over obnoxious advertising.
We just have the luxury of not having to in the West.

Probably just because we’re more susceptible to less-drastic forms of marketing.

No need to scream in someone’s face when you know they already want your thing.

Low margin is low.

A little off topic but still I wonder why Apple lets those Asian copycats replicate iOS so conspicuously

Do you see them selling those copycat phones and software in the US? China’s copyright regime is… a bit looser than the American one. And enforcing intellectual property rights across Europe tends to be a massive pain that’s probably just not worth it for Apple.

Also Apple would probably lose in a European court because Software Patents aren’t a stand alone thing and Copyright on similar but not identical icons is unlikely to fall foul of the law either.

Because the Chinese regime does not care to enforce intellectual property rights, especially not for foreign companies.

This would annoy the hell out of me, but I like that the option is there to get a cheap phone that is partially supported by ads. The Pocophone F1 seems to be really good (according to reviewers) and it allows people with smaller phone budgets to get close to a flagship experience.

This will inevietably lead to "not having ads in your phones OS" being PART of a flagship experience

And soon after even flagships would get ads. Just look at Samsung’s TVs as an example.

And you can get that experience if you pay 2 or 3 times as much which is what other phones with the same processor usually cost. Not everyone can afford them.

As long as it doesn’t eat up too much of the user’s data allowance, of course.

Does the OS also send user data back to China?

You bet!

https://www.mi.com/us/about/new-privacy/

Information you provide to us or upload (including your contact details): we may collect any and all personal information you provide to us, like your name, mobile phone number, email address, delivery address, ID card, driver license, passport details, Mi Account details (e.g. your security related information, name, birthday, gender), order, invoicing details, materials or data you may sync through Mi Cloud or other apps (e.g. photos, contact lists), information in relation to creating an account and participating in the MIUI Forum or other Xiaomi platforms, phone numbers you insert into your contacts or to send a message, feedback, and any other information you provide us.
Social information: information related to your social activities. For example, current employer, current job title, education background, professional training background etc.

And a bunch of other fun stuff like phone sensor data, location, bank account number and more. In short: everything they can get their hands on.

And this is just the stuff they are telling you about

Be honest about your source – https://www.quora.com/Do-Xiaomi-phones-really-spy-on-our-data-question-details

Adorable copypasta.

Any business that you buy things from and provide personal details to will store all of these details. Ignorant as the person who shared this bullshit misinformation.

Just in case you don’t understand privacy policies, which you don’t seem to, let me give you an example:

https://www.apple.com/legal/privacy/en-ww/

When you create an Apple ID, apply for commercial credit, purchase a product, download a software update, register for a class at an Apple Retail Store, connect to our services, contact us or participate in an online survey, we may collect a variety of information, including your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, contact preferences, device identifiers, IP address, location information and credit card information.
When you share your content with family and friends using Apple products, send gift certificates and products, or invite others to participate in Apple services or forums, Apple may collect the information you provide about those people such as name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. Apple will use such information to fulfill your requests, provide the relevant product or service, or for anti-fraud purposes.
In certain jurisdictions, we may ask for a government issued ID in limited circumstances including when setting up a wireless account and activating your device, for the purpose of extending commercial credit, managing reservations, or as required by law.
Source of your personal information where they are not collected from you
We may have received your personal information from other persons if that person has shared their content with you using Apple products, sent gift certificates and products, or invited you to participate in Apple services or forums. We may also validate the information provided by you when creating an Apple ID with a third party for security and fraud prevention purposes.
Collection and Use of Non-Personal Information
We also collect data in a form that does not, on its own, permit direct association with any specific individual. We may collect, use, transfer, and disclose non-personal information for any purpose. The following are some examples of non-personal information that we collect and how we may use it:

We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, referrer URL, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.
We may collect information regarding customer activities on our website, iCloud services, our iTunes Store, App Store, Mac App Store, App Store for Apple TV and iBooks Stores and from our other products and services. This information is aggregated and used to help us provide more useful information to our customers and to understand which parts of our website, products, and services are of most interest. Aggregated data is considered non‑personal information for the purposes of this Privacy Policy.
We may collect and store details of how you use our services, including search queries.

You can pull up any privacy policy and find the same kind of stuff. That’s what you get for using Quora as a source of your bias.

Your point? Does Xiaomi send user data to China? Yes, yes it does. It’s right there in the policy. And again: this is what they are telling you about.

And by the way, while we are moving goal posts… Where does Apple say they will use all that private data to advertises shit to you like Xiaomi does?

Your point? Does Xiaomi send user data to China? Yes, yes it does. It’s right there in the policy. And again: this is what they are telling you about.

Nothing in the privacy policy says that they are taking your personal data from your phone and sending it to servers in China. Try again.

Here is a quote from their privacy policy:

"If you do not provide your personal information, we may not be able to provide you with our products or services."

It’s information that you willingly provide, not that they unknowingly take from you. It’s the same as literally any digital service.

And by the way, while we are moving goal posts… Where does Apple say they will use all that private data to advertises shit to you like Xiaomi does?

No one is moving goalposts, but since you ask, if you actually read the excerpts I posted you would see that the answer is "Yes".

We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, referrer URL, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.
Nothing in the privacy policy says that they are taking your personal data from your phone and sending it to servers in China. Try again.

And where do you think Xiaomi’s servers are located? Kansas? Or might they be in China? Where the Chinese government has full access to your data if they want to. I’m not saying you have to care about that. But that’s what is happening and some people might just not be into that.

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