After users reported that the new pop-up selfie camera on vivo’s flagship NEX has been popping up by itself and taking unwanted selfies, users have discovered another potential privacy issue on vivo’s phone, only this time it’s connected to Baidu’s voice input app (百度输入法). Users broke the news that Baidu’s app was active and recording when the voice input app is not active, TechNode’s Chinese sister site is reporting.
Baidu has responded saying that vivo’s system mistakenly judged that the voice input app has started recording when, in fact, the app has been optimizing itself against preheating of the microphone and speeding up the app launch. The app also tries to optimize word recognition before user feedback. Baidu also noted that other brands and models have not reported any similar issues.
Vivo’s peeking selfie camera has exposed that certain apps are indeed spying on users. One Weibo user posted a video of using messaging app Telegram showing a Vivo Nex the hidden selfie and retracting it. Other users reported similar issues while using Tencent’s QQ Browser and Ctrip’s app for booking travel and accommodation.
Tencent has responded that the camera movements were caused by technical reasons and that the browser does not collect any private user data. According to the company, the QQ Browser prompts the camera to emerge but it doesn’t actually record anything.
Since the discovery of the issue, vivoNEX upgraded its system to a new version (1.15.4) with upgraded permissions management.
App permissions have been a hotly debated topic among Chinese tech users for some time since many of China’s apps do not work when certain permissions are denied even though the permissions are not crucial for the app to function. Regulation for mobile app use has been around in China since 2016 stating that users have a right to know and choose the information they give when installing an app, including access to the address book, camera, GPS location and others.