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Xiaomi releases browser update amid accusations it collects private browsing data

Xiaomi's software update lets you turn off data collection. But was Xiaomi collecting private browsing data before the release of the update?

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Xiaomi's Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro are the company's latest flagship phones that were released amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Érika García / CNET

Xiaomi released software updates for its browser apps on Monday amid fresh accusations it's been collecting private data from people who use its phones and browser apps.

In a blog post, Xiaomi said the update will allow you to switch off aggregated data collection while on incognito mode in its three browser apps: Mi Browser, Mi Browser Pro, and Mint Browser. The software update was rolled out on Google Play. 

"We believe this functionality, in combination with our approach of maintaining aggregated data in non-identifiable form, goes beyond any legal requirements and demonstrates our company's commitment to user privacy,"  the company said in its post. 

The release of the software update comes after a Forbes report published last Thursday raised concerns about the Chinese phone-maker's use of private data. It suggested Xiaomi may be collecting data on the websites users visit as well as granular information about apps used and files opened on devices. 

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Data from market analyst Canalys shows that Xiaomi's Redmi Note 8 (pictured above) was the best-selling Android at the end of 2019. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The report cited multiple security researchers, including one who said that the default Xiaomi browser on his Redmi Note 8, "recorded all the sites he visited, including search engine queries." He also said it tracked "every item viewed on a news feed feature of the Xiaomi software" when he used it. The researcher, Gabi Cirlig, told Forbes that this tracking appeared to happen even when browsing in incognito or private mode. The report went on to detail that the data was being packaged up and sent to remote servers in Russia and Singapore. 

In response to the report, Xiaomi defended its practices last week saying it's "fully compliant with user privacy protection laws and regulations in the countries and regions we operate in." 

The Redmi Note 8 is one of Xiaomi's best-selling phones and was the top-selling Android phone globally at the end last year.