Phone maker Xiaomi moves data outside China over privacy concerns

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Xiaomi smartphones

Credit: Michael Kan

The data migration will help Xiaomi improve load times for its international services

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is moving customer data and its Internet platforms to servers outside China, only months after the company apologized over privacy concerns.

Since early this year, Xiaomi has been migrating the data as a way to "cut down latency and reduce failure rates" for its customers across the world, said company vice president Hugo Barra in an online post on Wednesday.

"At the same time, it also better equips us to maintain high privacy standards and comply with local data protection regulations," Barra added. "This is a very high priority for Xiaomi as we expand into new markets over the next few years."

Xiaomi has been aggressively expanding outside China after emerging as one of the largest smartphone makers in its home market. But its growing international presence has also brought new scrutiny to the company, including concerns about its privacy policies.

In August, local media in neighboring Taiwan and security experts found that Xiaomi phones had been sending data back to a company server without users' permission. Xiaomi later apologized and introduced changes to its phone software.

The concerns have an added sensitivity, given that Xiaomi is based in China, a country that has been criticized for its strict censorship policies, and for allegedly carrying out hacking attacks against companies and other governments. Chinese authorities have been known to monitor traffic on data hosted within the country, according to industry experts.

On Wednesday, Barra said the company had been moving its international e-commerce platforms for its global users from Beijing to Amazon data centers in California and Singapore. The migration, which will be completed at the end of this month, will improve the website loading speeds in markets such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and India.

In addition, Xiaomi has begun migrating the international services for its customized Android operating system, MIUI, from Beijing to Amazon data centers in Oregon and Singapore, with the completion date set for the end of 2014.

Next year, the company will be working with local data center providers in India and Brazil to host customer services for those markets.

Xiaomi said in April it plans to expand to 10 foreign markets, including Russia, Mexico and Indonesia.

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