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Nokia Phones Now Store User Data in Finland

HMD Global, the phone maker behind the Nokia brand, found itself in hot water earlier this year when it was uncovered that user’s activation data was being sent to China without their consent or knowledge.

Apparently, this scenario was a software bug, where user data had accidentally been sent into China. HMD Global issued a statement to clarify the situation: if your device is bought from inside of China, the data is stored in China, but otherwise it’ll be stored in Singapore.

The company said that this “follows very strict privacy laws,” but this clashes with GDPR. According to those rules, taking user data outside of the EU would require getting explicit consent from those users, which reportedly did not happen.

Now, HMD Global have announced that they are moving their user data into Google Cloud servers based in Hamina, Finland.

This comes as part of a new partnership with Google Cloud and a consulting firm specialising in data collection and analytics called CGI. The former will provide HMD with its machine learning technologies, a benefit of working with the search giant.

The Nokia 4.2, 3.2 and 2.2 models will be the first phones to have user data stored in Finland. Users of older models of phone will also have their data storage location switched, once they’ve upgraded to Android Q. That operating system upgrade is due to take place later this year or early next. When buying a Nokia phone, users get two years operating system upgrades and three years security updates.

HMD Global says they are making this change in order to better support European security measures and legislation, not least GDPR.

“We want to remain open and transparent about how we collect and store device activation data and want to ensure people understand why and how it improves their phone experience,” said Juho Sarvikas, HMD Global’s Chief Product Officer. “This change aims to further reinforce our promise to our fans for a pure, secure and up to date Android, with an emphasis on security and privacy through our data servers in Finland.”

All that to say, or at least to be read as, that this should help protect user data from being accessed by governments like the US or China, which have a less than ideal track record when it comes to privacy.

Speaking to Ilta-Sanomat, a Finish news provider, Sarvikas claimed that the move was not in response to the China privacy concerns. Apparently, the decision to move data to Finland has been in the works for a year and comes as a larger move to swap cloud vendor from Amazon to Google. Of course, it’s also a return home for HMD Global and for Nokia, which has roots in Finland.

It’s good to see that Nokia user data is being treated better, but remember that data security is still a hot issue – Google still have access to the data if they so desire, and this doesn’t protect from unauthorised entry into the data, nor control over how apps and services handle their data.


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