Xiaomi addresses privacy concerns by moving international users’ data out of China

The leading Chinese phone-maker Xiaomi, which has caught western attention through a combination of an iOS-esque Android interface, pretty good value and the poaching of Google Android product chief Hugo Barra, is planning to migrate non-Chinese users’ data out of the Middle Kingdom.

In a Wednesday Facebook post, Barra said the data would head to [company]Amazon[/company] AWS data centers in California, Oregon and Singapore by the end of 2014. Next year, Xiaomi will start using data centers in Brazil and India too.

Latency is a big reason for all this (Xiaomi is also now using [company]Akamai[/company]’s global content delivery network) but so are privacy and local data protection regulations. Back in August, security researchers at F-Secure noted users’ details were being “silently” sent off to the company’s Chinese servers. Xiaomi responded by making its MIUI cloud messaging service opt-in and encrypting the phone numbers that it sends back to Xiaomi’s servers.

Last Sunday, a report noted that the Indian Air Force warns against the use of Xiaomi devices, again because they send data to Chinese servers. All this is clearly a very big deal for those that worry about Chinese spying, so it’s not hard to see why Xiaomi – which wants to push hard into new markets – is trying to make itself a safer option.

It’s also not hard to see the parallel with [company]Apple[/company], which recently began storing Chinese customers’ data in Chinese data centers. This sort of (entirely understandable) mistrust cuts both ways.