Throughout the past few years, Chinese smartphones have received a lot of flak for its ties to geopolitical issues. Both Huawei and ZTE have already suffered through bans from the American government. Naturally, Xiaomi is in a similar boat. Unfortunately, because of a new research report, things might get worse before they get better.
According to a report published by the National Cyber Security Centre in Lithuania, Xiaomi’s smartphones automatically download a list of terms that they blacklist. The list includes sketchy terms like “China,” “Taiwan Solidarity Union,” and other geopolitical terms. Obviously, including China-related terms can cause a bit of alarm for users elsewhere. However, the blacklist might have uses outside of the obvious.
Spotted by XDA Developers, Xiaomi uses the list for advertising purposes. Besides the China-related terms, the list also includes its brand rivals like “Samsung” and “ZTE.” It also includes pornography and piracy terms. Most ironically, the list also blocks its own smartphone models. The publication spotted that the blacklist is used solely by the smartphone’s advertising platform. Which does make sense now.
The list is designed to block out ads from competing companies and its own (which makes sense since someone who owns a Xiaomi phone probably doesn’t need to see a Xiaomi ad anymore). Blocking pornographic and piracy-supporting ads also makes sense. The China-related terms remain problematic, but there is no indication that Xiaomi uses the list for anything other than advertising.
Further, Xiaomi should activate the filter manually. The automatic download doesn’t automatically mean that the phone is censored. That said, there is still a possibility that Xiaomi can use the filter for more geopolitical reasons. At the very least, current reports don’t point toward that for now.
Editor’s Note: Xiaomi, on Sept 28, sent GadgetMatch the statement below
“Xiaomi’s devices do not censor communications to or from its users. Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviors of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software. Xiaomi fully respects and protects the legal rights of all users. Xiaomi complies with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”
The article was originally published on September 24, 2021.
Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings steps down as CEO
Names new successor
Netflix’s 2022 was rocky, to say the least. After dropping long-time subscribers for the first time in a while, the streaming platform has resorted to a variety of strategies to entice users to stay. While only a few of the new initiatives have resulted in positive change, the company is still on its uphill climb to regain its position atop other streaming giants. Now, Netflix is moving towards more drastic changes.
As revealed by the platform’s quarterly earnings, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings has stepped down as co-CEO of the company. However, Hastings will not completely leave the company. Instead, the co-founder will assume the role of executive chairman, leaving Ted Sarandos and the newly appointed Greg Peters as co-CEOs.
Currently, neither Hastings nor Netflix has revealed why the former is stepping down from the position. Of note, the platform even posted a growth in subscriber count for the past quarter. Netflix added 7.7 million new subscribers, eclipsing a projected growth of only 4.5 million subscribers. At the very least, Hastings has confirmed that he wants to work on share value and philanthropy going forward.
Last year, Netflix added new ways for users to engage with the platform. Now, besides watching movies and series, subscribers can play a gallery of mobile games. Users can also avail themselves of cheaper subscription plans supported by ads.
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Apple is preparing to open its first stores in India
Based on new job listings
For one of the largest smartphone markets in the world, India is one of the rarer countries where Apple does not outright dominate. Undoubtedly, the company is trying to change that. Ongoing job listings in India are suggesting that Apple is ready to open its first brick-and-mortar store in the country.
First reported by Financial Times, Apple has posted job openings in India for several retail roles including for the iconic Genius Bar. Another clue even indicates that some spots have already been filled ahead of time. A few employees in the country have reportedly posted about their new jobs on LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, none of the job listings show how many stores are planned and where they will be. Narrowing things down by a bit, a few of the confirmed employees are from Mumbai and New Delhi. The report also does not indicate when the stores will open. However, since a few have already been hired, a grand opening might be coming soon.
Apple has a lot to gain by strengthening its foothold in India. The country is an important stronghold for smartphone companies. However, the company might find things harder as time goes by. The country recently dictated that brands must switch to USB-C if they want to sell their devices in India. All over the world, Apple remains the last stalwart against adopting the more universal standard.
Samsung hires Mercedes-Benz alum to head design team
Will handle Galaxy S, Galaxy Z, among others
Outside of the arms race of maximizing hardware, another important battle is the persistent evolution of design. A friendly and approachable design just adds the necessary pizzaz to make an otherwise bland device pop off the shelves. Pushing the next evolution of design for the brand, Samsung has hired a Mercedes-Benz alum to head its Mobile eXperience Design Team.
Today, Samsung has announced the hiring of Hubert H. Lee as the head of the MX team, which handles Samsung’s most popular designs. Formerly, Lee was the chief design officer of Mercedes-Benz China. During his tenure as the carmaker’s designer, Lee spearheaded several projects in both China and the United States. He also bagged awards at his former position.
Now, as part of the Samsung MX team, Lee is in charge of the designs of the Galaxy S, Galaxy Z, and Galaxy Watch series. Given the timing of Samsung’s usual product cycles, Lee’s contributions will likely affect the Galaxy S24 series, rather than the upcoming Galaxy S23 series. Samsung is already pegged to launch the next flagship series sometime in early February.
Still, a new design head sparks some optimism for the South Korean brand. The effect of brilliant design is remarkably palpable for tech companies. For example, Samsung’s primary rival Apple still relies heavily on the contributions of its former design chief, Jony Ive.
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