Nokia phones are being investigated for allegedly sending data to China

It looks like Nokia is the latest tech company to be in privacy-related hot water — and in its home country of Finland, too. According to a report from Reuters, Finland’s data protection watchdog is investigating Nokia parent HMD Global for reportedly transmitting sensitive information to China.

The investigation comes after Henrik Austad, a Nokia 7 owner said that he was monitoring traffic from his phone to find that it was sending unencrypted information to China when switched on. That information apparently included data like is location, his phone’s serial number, and his SIM card number. The Chinese server was reportedly under the domain “vnet.cn,” which is managed by China Telecom, a state-owned Chinese telecommunications company.

After the initial reports, HMD Global admitted that it was sending data to China, but said that it was a software error and that the issue had been fixed in a January software update. According to HMD Global, phones didn’t send any personal information that could identify owners.

“We have analyzed the case at hand and have found that our device activation client meant for another country was mistakenly included in the software package of a single batch of Nokia 7 Plus,” HMD Global said in a statement. “However, such data was never processed and no person could have been identified based on this data. This error has already been identified and fixed in February 2019 by switching the client to the right country variant.”

Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio told Reuters that he would be investigating whether or not any data breaches occurred and if any legal action had to be taken. In the NRK report, Aarnio implied that the issue might at least be a violation of the European Union’s “General Data Protection Regulation,” or GDPR. If it does end up being a violation of GDPR, HMD Global could be facing significant fines; earlier in the year, Google was fined 50 million euros in France for its allegedly vague data consent policies.

The Nokia 7 itself was actually released as a China-exclusive phone in 2017. A second generation of the phone, called the Nokia 7.1, was released later, and it was made available outside of China. It doesn’t seem as though any Nokia 7.1 models have been sending data to China.

Generally speaking, Nokia’s recent handsets have been getting good reviews over the past few years. Most recently, the Nokia 9 PureView was hailed for its great specs and good photography features, thanks to the five camera lenses that can be found on the back of the handset. Nokia’s phones span a range of price brackets and generally offer stock Android.

Updated on March 22, 2019: Added HMD Global’s statement.

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