Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Indigenous software for phones needed

By Han Qi (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-31 07:47

The number of Internet users in China reached 632 million in June, with 46.9 percent of the population covered by the Web, and smartphones are the most frequently used tool to access the Internet, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. A smartphone may be the most convenient medium to reach the "virtual world", but by using it a netizen exposes his/her personal information to theft.

Personal data, including text messages, contact lists and photographs, can be stolen from iPhones through techniques that Apple hadn't revealed to users earlier. Apple acknowledged this fact earlier this week, but before that Jonathan Zdziarski, a researcher, demonstrated at a conference in the US how the company "collected" a surprisingly large volume of data from users for what it now says was analytical work meant to help engineers.

This is bad news for iPhone users in China, particularly government officials, because their personal data are vulnerable to theft and spying. This has prompted many people, including Fang Xingdong, founder of and an IT columnist, to urge officials to use domestic-brand smartphones instead of iPhones to protect their personal information. Fang has even said that important officials should be prohibited from using iPhones.

Security is a much greater issue than safety when it comes to the use of foreign-brand smartphones vis-a-vis personal computers, because more private information that can be related to national security are saved in officials' phones. But there is no guarantee that domestic-brand phones will not have the same security issues, because the problem lies with the software system used in cell phones, not the cell phones themselves. And since China has not developed an independent software for smartphones, all domestic-brand phones (Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi) use Android developed by Google for the smart applications.

Moreover, since other foreign brands, like Samsung that has the largest share in China's phone market, also use Android, there is no foolproof safeguard against security risks for smartphone users.

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