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OnePlus isn’t doing enough to fix its data collection problem

OnePlus User Data Collection

A report last week echoed what some OnePlus users have known for a long time: the company collects plenty of user data which could be used to identify a user. A security researcher discovered that OnePlus phones collect information including phone numbers, IMEIs, and Wi-Fi data, as well as details about a user’s interaction with apps. That sounds pretty disturbing, and it took a few days for OnePlus to even acknowledge the issue.

Long story short, OnePlus still wants your data, but at least now it’ll inform you about its practices. The company also said it’ll stop collecting some key data.

In a post on the OnePlus forums, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei elaborated on the matter. That post had already received some 20 pages of responses at the time of this writing.

Pei wants you to know that the company takes your data privacy very seriously. That said, OnePlus still collected your data without telling you about it. The company’s phones grabbed two different streams of data, including usage analytics and device information. None of this information is shared with third parties, and the data collected is meant to improve “product and service offerings.”

“The reason we collect usage analytics through the user experience program is so we can better understand general phone behavior and optimize OxygenOS for a better overall user experience,” the exec explained. “At any time, users can opt-out of usage analytics collection by navigating to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Advanced’ -> ‘Join user experience program.’”

As for device information? Well, “the reason we collect some device information is to better provide after-sales support. If you opt out of the user experience program, your usage analytics will not be tied to your device information.” Notice the strange wording of that phrase. This seems to suggest that OnePlus will still collect usage data, but it’s not going to be tied to device information.

The company said that come October, it’ll update its user experience program and users will receive a prompt asking if they want to join the user experience program. The terms of service agreement will also explain analytics collection.

What’s very interesting is that OnePlus will no longer collect telephone numbers, MAC addresses, or Wi-Fi information. Pei did not explain why this information was being collected in the first place, or why it was obtained without the express consent of users.

Crucially, OnePlus did not offer a way for users to see what data has been collected from their devices, or an option to have that data deleted from OnePlus’s servers. If you take privacy seriously, this should be quite disconcerting.

It’s safe to say not all OnePlus customers are happy. There’s even talk of a class action suit, though some of the posts mention that forum admins have been deleting posts that discuss potential lawsuits. Check out some of the replies Pei got at this link.

UPDATE: OnePlus reached out to BGR to explain that once users opt-out of the user experience program the company will not collect any kind of data.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.