The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has sent notices to multiple Chinese mobile phone manufacturers seeking details about their products and components. The Morning Context has reported (paywalled) that the government has served notices to OnePlus, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo last week. The exercise aims to determine if these smartphone brands are safe for Indian users.
According to Counterpoint Research, the government is expected to issue another notice requiring the testing of these devices.
Regulation to test snooping capabilities?
The Indian government has already compiled a list of trusted sources and companies for telecom and networking equipment to improve cybersecurity. The National Security Directive (December 2020) does not include controversial Chinese players like ZTE and Huawei. Now, the government may mandate in-depth testing of mobile phones, ET reported. One person familiar with the development said that the government can put in a special provision for companies from countries that share borders with India.”
Another person said that the move aims to ensure that there are no security-related issues. He added:
“The Chinese should not have a problem if they think their products are clean”.
MeitY and NTRO are said to be exploring the possibility of such a regulation.
What’s making them take these measures?
Last month, Lithuania’s National Cyber Security Centre said that Xiaomi phones had the built-in capability to detect and censor certain terms. E.g. “Free Tibet”, Long live Taiwan independence”, or “democracy movement”, “Women’s Committee”.
It said that although the company disables the capability for the phones it sells in the European region, it can remotely activate it. Shortly after, Germany also started to examine a Xiaomi-manufactured mobile phone.