I can't buy a phone from OnePlus until it cares about privacy and security

Dear OnePlus,

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Steal my data and I'll never settle for using one of your products ever again.

OK, maybe steal is a bit harsh. I guess it's possible that getting caught up in user data controversies twice in six months then allowing someone else to steal customer financial data for the same six months and waiting a week to do anything about it after someone else exposed it is a happy little accident. Stranger things have happened.

But either way, it's time to stop giving money — and second or third chances — to a company that obviously doesn't treat our personal data with enough care.

OnePlus either doesn't care or isn't capable of handling user data properly. Either way, it means they don't deserve any of it.

Before you hunt me down for saying this, you need to know that I advised we temper our response to the first instance of improper data collection when asked about it. I get looped in when it comes to anything about privacy or security because we are a team and that's the role I play. I can't remember exactly what was said, but the conversation went something like, "This is no different than anything Samsung or Moto or LG does except they didn't explicitly tell you when you first signed into the phone," and I really did feel that way.

I also thought you almost did it right when you owned up to it all and promised to move the opt-out setting somewhere that a new user would actually see it instead of hiding it. Analytics are important for every company that makes a product and they are hard to do without your customers feeling like they are a dairy heifer.

Clippy knows all your secrets.

Next, we saw some sketchy behavior from the clipboard app. The clipboard is not something you want being used for data collection of any kind; you use it for web URLs, passwords, and all sorts of things you don't want anyone to see. Your explanation makes sense — it's left over from the Chinese version of the operating system and it doesn't send the data it collects anywhere. Why you're collecting clipboard data from users in China is the next question you need to answer, but I'll chalk it up to an overworked developer missing it and leaving it there. It happens.

The holy grail of user data — your credit card

The saga about customer credit card data fraud is a mess, but a mess that can happen to any company. I don't believe the explanation — that a malicious script was injected into payment code — but if it is true there is still the whole thing about you knowing there was a problem for a week but still leaving everything in place and causing the theft of even more credit card information.

None of these things happened in a bubble. Each is a serious mishandling of your customers' trust and privacy and you now fall under the three-strike rule. You're out.

Money isn't everything

The fact that a new OnePlus 5T is at least several hundred dollars cheaper than a comparable phone from Google or Samsung or Apple is not lost on me. But that ignores the other costs. One's personal data is valuable to all these companies, but each one does a better job at handling it than you, OnePlus.

I could attribute this to you being new at all this, except that your parent company, OPPO Guangdong Electronics, has been making consumer electronics for 17 years and is the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Your current CEO, Pete Lau, was actually vice-president of OPPO. You can't use being new at this game as an excuse.

How much is your trust worth?

This is my opinion; my coworkers don't share my views, and some recommend the OnePlus 5T as one of the best phones available. We're both right. Ignoring all the careless ways you've treated your customers' data, you otherwise make a really good phone and sell it on the cheap. From a point of view that excludes privacy concerns, the OnePlus 5T is one of the best phones you can buy. But I'll not exclude privacy concerns — mine or anyone else's.

This is something I feel needs to be said. I also think you, OnePlus, need to make a concerted effort to ensure that privacy and security — your loyal customers' most important assets in this digital age — are just as important as phone speed and camera performance.

In other words, OnePlus, get your shit together.

Once that happens, I might change my mind, and I want to change my mind.



Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.