Security experts aren’t sure whether it’s a sneaky way to make a buck off potential advertising or an attempt by the government to monitor activity and steal information, but either one is possible at this point. Researchers have found pre-installed software in some US Android phones that tracks location, call history, and all text messages, and sends it back to a server in China.

You Look At Your Mobile 100 Times per Day

According to a report by the New York Times, “International customers and users of disposable or prepaid phones are the people most affected by the software. But the scope is unclear. The Chinese company that wrote the software, Shanghai Adups Technology Company, says its code runs on more than 700 million phones, cars and other smart devices. One American phone manufacturer, BLU Products, said that 120,000 of its phones had been affected.”

The story gets weird. Virginia-based cybersecurity firm Kryptowire discovered the software, which was originally thought to be a bug. Adups Technology Company, whose attorney is based in Palo Alto, California, said through the attorney that the software was indeed intentional and intended to monitor users’ activity, but was accidentally installed on phones sent to the US. The attorney literally called this nothing more than “a mistake” when asked for comment by the Times.

It’s a pretty serious mistake considering that Adups provides the software that powers phones for both ZTE and Huwei. Despite not being run by the government, Adups may have fallen victim to the regulations that China requires of its in-country technology manufacturers which allow for monitoring of telecommunications and internet use.

Adups claims this is far more innocent than it sounds, that the software was written at the request of a corporate client who wanted a way to store content and weed out junk traffic like spam. That wouldn’t exactly explain why user-initiated text messages were transmitted without the users’ knowledge, or why location monitoring was necessary. For its part, BLU Products says it has issued a software update to disable Adup’s firmware on US phones.

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