Xiaomi is in the news again, but this time not at all for good reasons. Xiaomi, right now is the top selling brand in India with around 31% market share in the previous quarter, as per various research firms. However, even after this, some of the users have reported of their experience of witnessing some highly appropriate content on their devices, courtesy, the notifications sent by the Mi Apps app on their Xiaomi smartphone.
For instance, Meenakshi Ravikrishnan, a Bengaluru-based teacher, reported that she has received a notification from the Mi Apps store app which showed a woman in her underwear, leaning over a laptop with the text, “How to download best videos? Click here now!!”. To this, she added that “I keep getting notifications from this app which are really annoying to start with. The next thing I see there’s a half-naked woman on my screen, and I just felt harassed by my phone.”
To learn more from Xiaomi, the company could not make any spokesperson available to discuss the matter. However, it is confirmed that the push notifications on the Mi App Store are mostly “generic pushes that are not personalized,” and that the ads are served by third-party ad networks and not reviewed by Xiaomi India.
In other words, these inappropriate ads could be reaching anyone, including kids, but however, the company said it’s not responsible for this. To make things worse for people like Ravikrishnan, users also cannot uninstall Mi Apps as it is a system application and it is not possible to turn off the notifications from the app.
Aside from Mi Apps, Xiaomi India is also serving ads to its users via the Browser app, and regarding this, the company’s Global Vice President, and Managing Director India, Manu Kumar Jain had regarded earlier this year, that ads are now a serious revenue source for Xiaomi India.
So now, users visiting the Newsfeed section of the Browser, might be subjected to links that are no less offensive than the notifications. When randomly fired up the Browser, the second story listed, when translated into English read like, “You’ll go crazy for this look of sister in-law’s, see pictures”. Sisters-in-law are often foddered for pornographic stories in India, for instance, ‘Savita Bhabhi”, and this seems to be coming from a similar place.
By saying that a third-party is serving the advertising, Xiaomi is essentially saying that it has no responsibility in the matter, even though it reaches millions of Indians every single day.
While many Xiaomi users have also refused of noticing the offensive content, Shikha Saini, who runs a cafe in Bengaluru, did say that she has seen some obscene ads as well. To this, she added that “I think our phones are just perverted,” Saini says with a laugh, and adds, “it’s a pretty minor thing and I don’t think most people notice, but yeah, every now and then there will be some ad that’s sketchy. But it’s mostly for games and stuff like that.”
This might be a minor issue, and even if artificial intelligence and machine learning might be the latest buzzwords, it’s clear that many algorithms are simply looking at what is, this is quite popular with a generic audience and are arriving at the lowest common denominator, whether as YouTube suggestions, or ads in notifications, without much consideration for the end-users.