AdGuard Blog: Your cell phone is not your own anymore

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Apr 24, 2016
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A little while ago we've analyzed the situation around Samsung SmartTVs regarding their blocking in a case of a supposed theft. We understand that it is really not so easy to absorb the idea that a vendor can abuse the blocking feature and rid an honest user out of their device, inducing anger and frustration out of nowhere. But we did not have to wait long to find more baffling examples.

This time it was Xiaomi, the cheap-and-good Chinese smartphone manufacturer. On September the 10th, they started blocking phones located in Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, and Crimea. A happy owner of a new shiny gadget would turn it on, activate it, and suddenly become an owner of a shiny new piece of uselessness.

A notification would appear on the screen, accompanying the complete lock of the device:

Xiaomi policy does not permit sale or provision of the product to the territory in which you have attempted to activate it. Please contact the retailer directly for additional information

Looks quite like Samusng's attempts to fight illegal sales of illegally acquired devices, doesn't it?

To be fair, Xiaomi later restored the access to most of the devices and apologized for this, ahem, "occasional outage".

However, it is one of those situations that make you think a lot. You buy a device, but you have so little control over it. Do you even own anything nowadays? Why do you pay money for something that does not work on your command, doesn't always work the same expected way, something that leaks your data, snitches on you to commercial companies and states? Do we, as users, really need such technologies?

And then there's the question of trust. If there has to be someone else who possesses such great power over things that play such a big role in our life, we'd better choose a trustworthy one. But who can we trust?
We don't call on throwing your Xiaomi smartphone into the trash bin. That's not the point. Yes, Xiaomi and privacy are no bros, but other vendors, unfortunately, are not much better. Xiaomi just have recently provided a good example of what we are talking about. The bottom line is, nobody is safe and secured from a data breach, including huge global vendors, developers and providers. No device is truly safe and secured.