One of the world’s largest online companies is a Chinese Alibaba company. It has a browser application called UC browser available on the Android Play Store or Apple App Store. When the UC browser was first disclosed, it was promised that the browser would offer disguised mode that did not record web search or search history. The browser also promises fast downloads, and the set of features makes it very popular throughout the world, collecting 500 million downloads on the Android platform.
While the browser is not used in the US, it is currently the fourth largest browser with number downloads globally, especially thanks to the Asian market. Security researcher Gabi CIRLIL has published reports that find privacy claims made by the browser misleading. Independent researchers also verify their findings.
CIRLIG found that the Android and iOS version of the UC browser tracks every user visit website regardless of whether they are in disguise mode or not. Data on their search habits are sent to the server owned by UCWEB. Data sent to the server includes IP addresses, which can be used to get a rough location of users narrowing to certain cities or even certain environments.
Investigations found that while servers were registered in China and bringing the extension of the Chinese domain name .Cn, they were hosted in the US. The server also sets ID numbers for each user so that activities on various websites can be monitored. Exactly what is being done with the data that is being collected is a mystery.
However, CIRLIAL claims that data can be easily fingerprint users and link it back to their real real world personas. Tracking activities found by engineering behind several encrypted cirligs that were seen sent to China. The researcher said this tracking was done intentionally regarding the user’s privacy.