Realme UI 4.0 Accused of Collecting User Data Without Consent; Attracts Govt Attention

Realme UI 4.0 might be collecting user data via a feature called “Enhanced Intelligent Services”, which is enabled by default on its devices.

  1. Users are questioning a setting option in the Realme UI 4.0 update.
  2. The Android 13-based skin has been accused of collecting user data without consent.
  3. Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar noticed user complaints and assured an investigation.

Realme UI 4.0 has been a controversial update. The update, announced last year, was infamous for the number of pre-installed bloatware apps. Ads and app recommendations, including explicit content, followed this. Realme was quick to fix the issue partly. However, the update continues to have dark patterns that might not be easily noticeable to the average consumer. Realme has reportedly been tracking user activity and collecting data to improve the user experience and optimise device functions. Users took to Twitter to raise the issue, which has attracted the Indian government’s attention.

Union Minister of Electronics and Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar has intervened following complaints of several issues. The minister assured that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) would look into the matter and test the feature.

Realme UI 4.0 Collecting User Data?

Realme UI 4.0 might collect user data via a feature called “Enhanced Intelligent Services”, enabled by default on its devices. Users have been uploading a screenshot of the feature, which shows that the feature is enabled by default. The description states that Enhanced Intelligent Services improves the user experience by optimising device functions based on how you use your device. The feature collects the user’s information, including device information, app usage statistics, location information, calendar events, etc. The feature also collects statistics about unread SMS messages and missed calls. 

Enhanced Intelligent Services requires access to the user’s location, internet connection, calendar events, call logs, and messages.

While the feature might be using machine learning and claim to enhance the user experience, it is unknown if the collected data stays on the device and if it is sent to remote servers. This further raises concerns over user data security and privacy.

Realme, when writing this, has not officially commented on the issue. If you want to turn off the feature, which we would advise, you can go to Settings > Additional Settings -> System Services and then disable Enhanced Intelligent Services.

OPPO and OnePlus smartphones also have the same feature. Since Realme UI 4.0 is based on ColorOS 13, it is bound to have most of the system features that the BBK-owned company offers. The same is the case with Oxygen OS 13, which is based on ColorOS 13 and has some minor design tweaks but shares most of the underlying features.

We could verify the same on the OnePlus Nord 2, which runs Android 13-based Oxygen OS 13. The feature can be disabled by going to Settings > System > Additional Settings > System Services and disabling Enhanced Intelligent Services. It is worth noting that the feature was enabled by default. We also would advise turning off the location permission for this feature and other unwanted apps and services.

As a thumb rule, we would advise not giving any app or service access to your location, microphone, call logs or photos and videos. While most of these apps claim to collect the data to improve the user experience, there is no clarity on whether the data remains on the device. If the data is sent to servers, it is unknown how one deals with your data without your knowledge.