​OnePlus dials back data collection after users protest

OnePlus cuts back the data it's collecting about users and will offer a new opt-in process for its experience program.

​OnePlus 3T

Smartphone maker OnePlus has said it will now give users the choice to opt-in to its data collection program after complaints about the amount of data the company was recording.

The type and frequency of OnePlus' data collection was revealed last week by UK-based software engineer Christopher Moore, who found the company was not only collecting unique device identifiers, but his wireless network identifiers, his phone number, details about when he unlocked the phone, and the exact times he was using specific apps, such as Outlook and Slack.

The details OnePlus was collecting allowed it to tie device and app usage to each device and phone number, which Moore argued was unnecessary.

After probing OnePlus' support team over Twitter about the issue, he found that unless he rooted his phone, there is no way to disable this data collection, which happens via OxygenOS system services, OnePlus Device Manager and OnePlus Device Manager Provider.

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has now responded to growing criticism of its telemetry system, telling users on its forum that it takes data privacy "very seriously".

Pei explained it collects both usage analytics and device information under two separate streams solely to optimize its OS and improve after-sales support for devices, rather than for monetizing through third-party data sharing. Pei said the company has never shared this information with third-parties.

Moore's complaint however has lead to some changes to OnePlus' data collection practices. OnePlus will no longer collect users' phone numbers, MAC addresses, and Wi-Fi information, according to Pei.

By November users will be given a clear choice as to whether to join its "experience program". Currently users can opt-out of the experience program in which case usage analytics will not be connected to device information. However, users were not given the choice upfront as to whether they'd like to be included or have their activities tied to their specific device.

"By the end of October, all OnePlus phones running OxygenOS will have a prompt in the setup wizard that asks users if they want to join our user experience program. The setup wizard will clearly indicate that the program collects usage analytics. In addition, we will include a terms of service agreement that further explains our analytics collection," wrote Pei.