ALL CHINESE SMARTPHONE brands get in occasional hot water for sending data to mysterious servers in mainland China, but they do at least have a certain amount of plausible deniability against anything more untoward. For HMD Global and its Nokia-branded phones, it's a bit harder to explain away, as data seems to be on a 3,700-mile detour from Finland to China.
The report comes from Norway's public broadcaster NRK, which was tipped off to the covert data broadcast by Henrik Austad: a man who found his Nokia 7 was sending unencrypted data to "vnet.nc", which seems to be managed by state-owned China Telecom.
Is that bad? Well, yes, and especially for HMD Global. While the information gathered - things like user location, SIM card number and device serial number - couldn't be used to identify a user, it's still a big GDPR no no. Earlier this year Google got a €50m Euro fine for iffy data usage in France, and it looks like HMD Global could be in for a similar painful slap on the wrist, now the country's data protection ombudsman is investigating.
For its part, HMD Global says the issue was isolated to a batch of Nokia 7 handsets, which were only ever designed to be sold in China. In any case, the phone no longer sends data to China, as what HMD Global describes as an "error in software packaging" was fixed in a software update in February, which nearly all affected devices have now installed.
A more significant question is why the phone was sending the data in the first place. Is this a requirement for phones sold to the Chinese market? NRK asked a number of times, but HMD Global didn't provide an answer. Hmmm. µ
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