Chinese smartphones under scanner over data security

The government has sent notices to 21 smart phone makers, including big-selling Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Gionee, asking them to share security information with the authorities or face action.

Other major smartphone makers in the government's risk list include Apple, Samsung and Micromax.

The ministry of electronics and IT has sought information from the smartphone makers on the security procedures and processes they follow to ensure security of mobile phones for the user and the country.

The ministry's move follows national and international reports of data leakage and theft of users' personal information.

The smartphonre companies have been given time till 28 August to comply with the security norms, beyond which the government agencies will conduct audits and those found not in compliance will be penalised for norms violation.

The government, meanwhile, also started a review of electronics and IT product imports from China over concerns of security and data leaks.

Chinese companies hold the majority share of the Indian market, worth about $22bn, allowing possible misuse by product manufacturers.

Since many of the devices transmit, or store, data back into Chinese servers, these gadgets could pose a major security risk.

Recently, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reportedly ordered an assessment of India's vulnerability in terms of Chinese imports. Sources said a top-level meet was held to review Chinese involvement in India's electronics and IT industry.

Several experts have questioned the reliability of Chinese phones, especially the cheaper ones, with respect to privacy.

Reports last month said China-made Laagoo and Nomu handsets come with a built-in malware.

Recently, researchers claimed snooping adware was installed in BLU devices. It was also reported in December last that BLU used to send users' messages, contacts and call logs to Chinese servers. The issue has reportedly been fixed later.

As per the IT Act, section 43 (a), a company is responsible to make sure that it keeps the data of users safe, and the rules have to be complied with. There's a provision of unlimited compensation and penalties of Rs5 crore through state level arbitrators.

Official sources said henceforth testing and verification of all imported devices will be done in India, and the government was upgrading testing facility in existing labs.

According to the new study by International Data Corporation (IDC), about 28 million smartphones were shipped to India in Q2 (April-June) and the industry registered 3.7 per cent quarterly growth and a meagre 1.6 per cent yearly growth.

According to IDC, Samsung has retained its leadership position in the Indian smartphone market while seeing a marginal decline of 4 per cent from the same period of last year. Samsung is followed by Xiaomi, which saw a 25 per cent growth in sales. Another Chinese smartphone player, Vivo, remained in the third spot with 26 per cent QoQ growth and gained 13 per cent market share in second quarter.

In the same period last year, Vivo had a 4 per cent market share. While OPPO grabbed the fourth spot even as its shipments declined by 13 per cent QoQ. However, Lenovo (including Motorola) fell to the fifth position as its shipments declined 25 per cent QoQ.

IDC also highlighted that 34 million units of feature phones were shipped in the quarter with 8.9 per cent growth from the previous quarter.