China's Xiaomi shifts some smartphone user data out of Beijing on privacy concerns

By Reuters

Oct 23, 2014 05:31 AM EDT

Fast-growing Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc said on Thursday it is migrating some data on non-Chinese customers away from its servers in Beijing due to performance and privacy considerations.

Data belonging to the privately owned company's non-Chinese users will be moved in several phases to Amazon Inc servers in the United States and data centers in Singapore, Xiaomi vice president Hugo Barra said in a Wednesday blog post on GooglePlus.

The migration matches in reverse Apple Inc's move earlier this year to store Chinese user data with China Telecom Corp, the first time the iPhone maker has kept user data on the Chinese mainland.

User privacy remains a key issue for Xiaomi as it eyes overseas expansion, having risen in the three years since it was founded to become the top smartphone vendor in China, according to industry analysts. It has already faced several privacy controversies, including accusations from international security researchers and a government agency in Taiwan that it funnels unauthorized user data back to its servers in Beijing.

Apart from privacy, Barra also said the moving data to overseas servers has significantly boosted speed in markets such as Singapore, India and Malaysia. Xiaomi is targeting India and Brazil as its next big markets.

Technology companies typically keep data centers physically close to their user base to maximize service speeds, but the question of where to situate them has sometimes been politically wrought. Companies such as Google Inc, for instance, have chosen to store user data off mainland Chinese soil over concerns about privacy and the need to comply with Chinese censorship laws.

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

Barra's post came days after the Chinese web monitoring group accused Chinese government-affiliated hackers of seeking to obtain Chinese Apple users' personal data - an accusation which the government has strongly denied. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook discussed information security with a top Chinese official while visiting Beijing this week, according to Chinese state media.

Barra said Xiaomi will also begin using Akamai Technologies Inc's content delivery service, which in the past has served clients ranging from Apple to Netflix Inc.

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