A couple of weeks ago, you may remember that we posted an official response stemming directly from HTC regarding privacy and security of data (link to previous article). Not being entirely happy with the response, XDA Recognized Developer TrevE decided to take it upon himself to dig out some more stuff regarding the apps and pieces of code that were actually doing all the collection. He came up with a rather nice list of apps, most of which he has been working on constantly to try and decipher their true purpose. Well, to make a long story short, this information got to the desks of the good people at HTC and they decided to try and generate a response to these new concerns. Without further ado, HTC’s official response:
The most important of HTC’s core goals is to provide consumers with the best possible experience on their devices. We live by the principle that our best work is never good enough, and we continually strive to learn more about how to delight the customers that use HTC devices.
One of the most effective and statistically accurate ways for us to learn how to improve is through the depersonalized and permission-based collection of error and usage data from consumers’ phones. Each member of the HTC community who is willing to contribute this data in a depersonalized mannerhelps all members of the HTC community enjoy a better experience.
HTC values our customers’ privacy and ability to make informed choices about data collection and sharing. For HTC’s own software, our policy is to provide notice and choice and to ensure that anypersonal information collected is appropriately protected. The protection of this data is our obligation and we take the trust you put in us to learn from that data very seriously.
Tell HTC is an optional feature that people can choose to activate or not. If you choose to activate Tell HTC and help us improve the products and services that you and other members of the HTC community use, we collect depersonalized error and usage data from the device and use the data to improve HTC products and services. Some of these improvements may be delivered to your device in the form of a software update and others will be delivered in future HTC products and services. We do not share or collect any content of communications or any personally identifying information such as names, phone numbers, or e-mail addresses of customers or their friends and contacts using Tell HTC.
If you choose not to participate in Tell HTC, we will not store error or usage data on the device and will not send data to Tell HTC servers. Tell HTC can be enabled or disabled at any time in the Settings Menu, under “About Phone”à“Tell HTC”.
HTC App Usage Statistics is a service on the device that powers the “Frequent Apps” feature, which is reached by tapping the checkerboard in the lower left-hand corner of the home screen. This service shares data with the Tell HTC service on the device. However Tell HTC will not store or report the data if the user has chosen not to participate in Tell HTC.
HTC Check-in periodically contacts HTC FOTA (Firmware-Over-The-Air) services to check if new software is available. This service is set to “Automatic” by default, but can be changed to “Manual” by the user in the Settings Menu. When “Checking In” with the HTC FOTA Servers, HTC Check-in will send the device serial number (IMEI) and current software version. This is needed to determine if the specific device has new software available. This service is not connected to Tell HTC.
It is also important to note that the phones we build are a compilation of not only software and services from HTC, but also from third parties. These third-party applications and services, such as Carrier IQ (CIQ) and Google Check-in, serve to further improve the customer experience and have their own privacy policies. We encourage consumers to understand the specific policies of any application or service that is enabled on their device.
It certainly looks like after the locked bootloader incident, HTC has decided to take a turn for the better and try to cooperate with developers a lot more, which is why you are seeing a lot more public appearances from them than ever before. Please keep in mind that this is a massive, multinational corporation with tons of legal blocks, trade secrets, etc. So, probably expecting a direct response from them, directly addressing code concerns may not be as viable as some people would think. Despite all this, they were able to provide a little bit of insight onto the first 3 services, which is a start in my opinion. If you read carefully the last paragraph of their response, you will notice something that we have covered before here in the Portal. There seem to be things in the code that are mandated by the carriers themselves and as such, HTC (or any manufacturer) may have little to no power to opt out of them.
Well, whether it is or not the exact answer that we were expecting, I would personally like to thank HTC for looking into our community and paying attention to their customer’s concerns. We certainly look forward to a more robust and technical response regarding the things that they do have control on.
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