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Amazon suspends sale of Blu phones amidst privacy concerns

Security researchers say some devices transmit private data without user consent

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Photo credit: goblinbox_(queen_of_ad_hoc_bento) - Flickr
Amazon has temporarily suspended the sale of phones made by Blu from its site after learning of a “potential security issue” involving alleged spyware.

ZDNet reports that the online retailer made the decision following a demonstration at the Black Hat security conference in which security experts from the firm Kryptoware showed that Blu’s devices were transmitting users’ private data without their consent.

Back in November, Kryptoware first alleged that Blu phones contained firmware that transmitted consumers’ personal information without their consent to a Chinese vendor called Shanghai Adups Technology. Both Blu and Adups announced shortly after that they had taken steps to resolve the issue, but researchers showed at the Black Hat conference that phones made by Blu were still transmitting private information and were capable of installing apps, taking screenshots, recording screens, making calls, and wiping devices without users’ permission.

"Because security and privacy of our customers is of the utmost importance, all Blu phone models have been made unavailable for purchase on Amazon.com until the issue is resolved," Amazon said in a statement.

“No wrong doing”

In response to the charges, Blu issued a statement saying that its Adups software was only present on some of its older devices, and that it has switched to Google’s OTA software for its new devices to ensure greater security.

"Blu decided to switch the Adups OTA application on future devices with Google's GOTA. Even though it is Blu's policy to only use GOTA moving forward, some older devices still use Adups OTA," the company said.

Company officials argue further that the information collected by Adups on older phones is in line with information collected by every other smartphone manufacturer around the world, and that there is no privacy issue.

“There is nothing out of the ordinary that is being collected, and certainly does not affect any user’s privacy or security,” the company said. “In addition…the data collection is in line with BLU’s Privacy Policy, and does not constitute any wrong doing by BLU.”

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