Personal Tech

OnePlus privacy shock: So, the cool Chinese smartphones slurp an alarming amount of data

Are we shocked? *Cough* Google, Apple *Cough*

By John Leyden


OnePlus mobiles are phoning home rather detailed information about handsets without any obvious permission or warnings, setting off another debate about what information our smartphones are emitting.

Software engineer Christopher Moore discovered that the information collected included the phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity, phone numbers, MAC addresses, and mobile network among other things. Moore further found that his OnePlus 2 was sending information about when he opened and closed applications or unlocked his phone to a domain at net.oneplus.odm.

MAC randomization: A massive failure that leaves iPhones, Android mobes open to tracking


OnePlus, for the uninitiated, is a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that specialises in developing and marketing Android phones, recently launching a higher-end model. Its earlier models gained a lot of cachet from their by-invitation-only status.

Responding to queries from The Register, OnePlus offered a statement explaining that it was collecting "analytics" not shared with third parties:

We securely transmit analytics in two different streams over HTTPS to an Amazon server. The first stream is usage analytics, which we collect in order for us to more precisely fine tune our software according to user behavior. This transmission of usage activity can be turned off by navigating to 'Settings' > 'Advanced' > 'Join user experience program'. The second stream is device information, which we collect to provide better after-sales support. We do not share any analytics data with outside parties.

The code responsible for this data collection is part of the OnePlus Device Manager and the OnePlus Device Manager Provider.

Privacy-focused users have the option of stopping these data collecting system services every time they boot the phone or removing these via ADB (Android Debug Bridge utility), a process that wouldn't require an initial rooting of the device.

Apple dodges data privacy sueball: Fanbois didn't RTFM*, says judge


But OnePlus is not alone in this kind of thing. Google collects hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers, and mobile network information (including phone number). The Chocolate Factory may associate your device identifiers or phone number with your Google Account. It also logs metadata on calls and SMS messages as well as device event information such as crashes and system activity, as explained in its privacy policy.

Apple, meanwhile, has successfully fought off several privacy lawsuits. According to a 2011 complaint, it had been continuing to send Wi-Fi hotspot and mobile tower data even after location services had been switched off, a "bug" which Apple fixed in the 4.3.3 version of iOS early that same year. But the suit was dismissed after the users failed to convince a judge they knew about Apple's privacy policies before they bought their iPhones. (We recommend a browse of "What personal information we collect" in its Privacy Policy for the RTFM crowd.)

Moore first published his findings months ago, but the issue touched off a public debate this week on the Android subreddit. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily


More from The Register

With the 6T, OnePlus hopes to shed 'cheeky upstart' tag and launch assault on flagships

Hands On Bluffing no more

OnePlus 6 smartphone flash override demoed

Manufacturer promises update

OnePlus 6T: Tasteful, powerful – and much cheaper than a flagship

Review Not the best at anything, but a solid, great value performer

HTC and OnePlus spruce up flagships for Santa's sack

Time for the ol' mid-year refresh

UK regulator bans slasher-flick parody ad for OnePlus 5 mobe

Why did this show up before a Thomas The Tank Engine clip?

OnePlus smartmobe brand modelled on 'a religion', founder admits

Shenzhen cult gathers the faithful

Customers reporting credit card fraud after using OnePlus webstore

Chinese mobe-flinger probing the issue

OnePlus Android mobes' clipboard app caught phoning home to China

Update Sorry! that was a test feature for Chinese users, company claims

Can 'blockchain' mobe Exodus stem movement of HTC's Jah people?

Yeah, probably not, but dev previews are available now

OnePlus 5 x T + five short months = Some p*ssed off fanboys

That flagship you just bought? Here's one better