Some Nokia phones were spotted sending user data to China

Some Nokia phones were spotted sending user data to China
HMD Global has managed the Nokia smartphone brand impressively well since it took over in December 2016, but now the Finnish company has found itself in hot water.

In a report published earlier today, Norway’s public broadcaster NRK claims to have found proof that certain Nokia smartphone have been transmitting unencrypted user information to China. Allegedly, on-device data such as GPS location, the device serial number, and even the user’s phone number were being transmitted back to a Chinese server.

The server in question was under the domain “vnet.cn,” which is reportedly managed by state-owned carrier China Telecom. From the look of things, every time the Nokia 7 Plus units were powered on, data would immediately be transferred over to the server. Similarly, simply turning on the display or unlocking the device would trigger the same process.

Fortunately for consumers, this issue was present only a “single batch” of Nokia 7 Plus units. Presumably, the smartphones were initially intended for the Chinese market but ultimately made it into the hands of European consumers. Moreover, since the issue has been raised, HMD Global has removed the infringing files from the devices.

As a result of this apparent slip-up, HMD Global is now being investigated by Finland’s data protection watchdog.

UPDATE: We have received the following statement from HMD Global on the matter:

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38 Comments

1. domfonusr

Posts: 1084; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

I'm sure it could happen to just about anyone who manufactures their wares in China now, but it is still disappointing. I hope that HMD Global ensures that this doesn't happen again. Even some OEM's who don't manufacture in China, but use Chinese designs or software, have this problem: case-in-point - BLU. Some day, it will be hard to find a phone that doesn't spy on its owners for the Chinese government...

2. hurrycanger

Posts: 1761; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

I didn't know BLU weren't manufactured in China. Their phones are basically fully from China and the company just has an office here. Back in time, it was so bad their whole marketing people don't even know that one of their phones didn't have a microSD slot.

3. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

BLU takes smartphones that were made by certain Chinese OEM's and rebrands them. Many OEM's have their phones manufactured by Foxconn, which is in China,

5. Subie

Posts: 2361; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Correct MG. I think the proper term is ODM - Original Design Manufacturer.

7. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

Yessir, Subie. What you said is correct.

6. domfonusr

Posts: 1084; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

As far as I understand it, BLU (headquartered in the US - in Florida) buys phone designs from Chinese OEM's, and then sources the parts (probably from China) and software (mostly from Google, but with some software sourced from China or other places for the 'built in' apps), and assembles their devices at a Foxconn (actually headquartered in Taiwan, and not China) plant in Brazil... from there they go wherever they go to be sold, mostly from Amazon's warehouses.

8. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

BLU actually takes the hardware itself iirc, as a "white box" or unlabeled unit and rebrands it, sourced from Chinese OEM's. Yes, Foxconn is in Taiwan, my mistake, but it's a Chinese owned and operated company. BLU actually got into a whole heap of trouble because it was found that their smartphones was full Spyware from China, if memory serves me correct.

9. mootu

Posts: 1517; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

"Yes, Foxconn is in Taiwan, my mistake, but it's a Chinese owned and operated company." No Foxconn is a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturing company with its headquarters in Tucheng, New Taipei, Taiwan. It is Taiwanese owned (Terry Gou) and operated, it just chooses to do most of it's manufacturing in China.

10. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

Correct. Should have done more due diligence, like I normally do. Thanks for the correction.

13. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

At least you know what you are talking about instead of just saying stuff without doing your "due diligence" and making yourself look bad.

16. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

Lol, this coming from the guy that didn't even know what SoC the Nokia 6.1 that you claimed to own is using. You can dial down the hypocrisy now.

25. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

There you go with the false narrative. You claimed that I don't know what SoC the 6.1 is using. Point to me the comment in question where said or implied anything about the SoC of the 6.1.

30. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

Lol, it isn’t a “false narrative”. You got the SoC incorrect. We both know this. I’ll dig up the article at my leisure.

36. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

You mean you'll continue to pull blanket statements out of your rear end and spew them as gospel. You didn't think that I forgot about this? You had plenty of time to provide the article where I said or implied anything about not knowing what SoC the 6.1 used.

4. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

While HMD should have had better QC on this, this incident will no doubt be overblown by those that want to further the "war against China" agenda. The evidence points to this one-off incident being from a batch of Nokia 7 Plus Smartphones that were intended only for the Chinese market, and not the global one, as noted in the article. This snafu really could have happened to any OEM, and HMD is to be commended for pushing out a fix once they were aware of the issue. According to HMD, no personal data was transmitted to third parties or government agencies: https://nokiamob.net/2019/03/21/finlands-data-protection-board-to-launch-investigation-into-nokia-phones-communicating-with-china/

11. gazmatic

Posts: 808; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

No surprise

12. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Yup that's pretty shady of Nokia to allow this to go on. This isn't some overblown issue like some people erroneously think.

17. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

You're the one that's actually overblowing it, especially when you kept your mouth and turned a blind eye shut when OnePlus, the OEM you have been championing, was caught red handed with regards to sending user data without the users consent.

26. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

You are the last person who should talk about overblowning considering how you overblown the supposed issues of the Pixel phones. Feel free to give yourself a thumbs up with your other accounts btw.

31. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

The Pixel issues are a multitude of issues with each generation suffering from many issues. That’s not overblown, being that the multitude of issues are well documented. Feel free to check your envy at the door.

37. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

And the issues that plague Nokia phones are well documented. Your point? Feel free to check your ego at the door.

41. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

My point is what I said above. And Nokia branded smartphones have far less issues than Pixels and iPhones. Feel free to check your denial at the door.

14. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Wow Nokia. You are the last entity that I would have suspected of sending user data to China. That is some Huawei next level shadiness.

15. Subie

Posts: 2361; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

I agree. But to be fair, I would be willing bet that most, if not all phones destined for the Chinese market due this. This mistake will probably happen again to some other oem unfortunately. I can only imagine the fallout if these had been Huawei devices that slipped through to the wrong market...

18. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

Exactly Subie. But we all know that he's just here to blow things out of proportion, especially when it's not "Nokia" that has done this, like he's claiming.

20. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Bruh, thank whatever deity you worship for this report not being about a BlackBerry device. I can't fathom the levels of troll-ness we would be getting. That being said, it's disappointing that this kind of thing happens. I would like to think a company as distinguished as Nokia/HMD would have safeguards in place to prevent these types of shenanigans. It appears this was a post-production event but it's unnerving that it could be done in the first place.

21. meanestgenius

Posts: 22035; Member since: May 28, 2014

Lmao one person in particular would be trolling BlackBerry until this time next year if this were them. This snafu was more of someone sending something intended for certain decided to the wrong batch of devices. Someone "looked left when they should have looked right" and this happened. The good thing is that no personal data was sent. But I bet HMD will work twice as hard to make sure this doesn't happen again.

23. domfonusr

Posts: 1084; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

From your lips/keyboard to HMD's ears/eyes...

29. Venom

Posts: 3541; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

If you have something to say, perhaps you should just go ahead and say it instead of hiding behind your own words.

19. Mike88

Posts: 401; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

This is the story with every android phone

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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