[Caught Again] OnePlus Found To Be Collecting Clipboard Data & Sending It To Alibaba Controlled Servers

At one point or another, all of us would have come across this quote, "Make a mistake once and it becomes a lesson. Make the same mistake twice and it becomes a choice." OnePlus seems to have chosen to drag itself into controversy yet again. The Chinese smartphone company was last year found to be collecting personally identifiable analytics data from phones without the owner's acknowledgement. Now, OnePlus has been caught collecting clipboard data and sending it to Alibaba operated servers.

A curious user on the OnePlus forums, who has the username v1nc, installed the firewall app NetGuard on his OnePlus 3T. After v1nc updated his 3T to the latest Open Beta build, he found that NetGuard blocked the data transmission requested by a system app "com.oneplus.clipboard". On further investigation, v1nc found that the system app collected data and send it to a server owned by Alibaba. From the name of the system app, v1nc assumed that OnePlus might be collecting clipboard data and sending it to the Alibaba servers. Android Police contacted OnePlus regarding this issue and OnePlus confirmed that it was collecting clipboard data from the devices of OnePlus 3/3T owners using the last Oreo 8.0 based Open Beta. Here's the statement OnePlus issued to Android Police:

Our OnePlus beta program is designed to test new features with a selection of our community. This particular feature was intended for HydrogenOS, our operating system for the China market. We will be updating our global OxygenOS beta to remove this feature.

The statement given by OnePlus is quite mysterious. Firstly, collecting clipboard data without consent from the user can't be termed as a 'feature'. I would instead call that as 'snooping'. Secondly, if this particular feature was intended for HydrogenOS, it means that OnePlus was planning to collect the clipboard data from its Chinese users. Seeing the implementation of this feature in OxygenOS, I can't help myself but think that OnePlus would have implemented this feature in a similar manner in HydrogenOS. Lastly, if this feature was planned for HydrogenOS, how did it end up in OxygenOS? It appears that OnePlus made a mistake of collecting clipboard data and then made another mistake of implementing it in OxygenOS instead of HydrogenOS. 

Android Police have confirmed that this feature isn't included in the stable version of OxygenOS. I will be digging into the builds of HydrogenOS and seeing whether OnePlus has included this feature therein. If you are using the latest Open Beta build on your OnePlus 3/3T, I would recommend you to install NetGuard (Play Store | APK) like v1nc and disable all background activity by activating the 'Data Saver' mode (search for it in Settings). It would be even better if you can migrate to an older beta build or stable version of OxygenOS. It's worth noting here that this issue only applies to the last Open Beta build and not to any beta builds before it. Owing to the multiple privacy concerns that have plagued OxygenOS in recent times, I would recommend you to get rid of it and install a custom ROM instead (OnePlus 3 XDA forums | OnePlus 3T XDA forums). 

I will update this post after I complete my investigation of HydrogenOS.

[Image credits - OnePlus]

Krittin Kalra
Krittin Kalra is a 20 year old Android freak. Striving for passions, chasing down his dreams and living a life without regrets is his sole mantra. A bit moody, he also does custom ROM reviews for AndroGuider. Currently pursuing his B.Tech, he aspires to follow his heart.
[Caught Again] OnePlus Found To Be Collecting Clipboard Data & Sending It To Alibaba Controlled Servers [Caught Again] OnePlus Found To Be Collecting Clipboard Data & Sending It To Alibaba Controlled Servers Reviewed by Krittin Kalra on 1/11/2018 08:40:00 PM
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