Drone maker DJI has rushed out an update for its drone pilot app for the DJI Go and Go 4 drones, which the company was criticised for collecting private user data.
The update, released this week, removes support for much of the functionality provided by third-party plugins, such as JPush, which previously allowed users to get a notification when their files had finished uploading to DJI's SkyPixel video platform.
However, many of those third-party plugins were also slurping up far more private data than they should've done.
"Many features of the DJI GO and DJI GO 4 apps use third-party plugins that serve important functions, such as livestreaming, sharing photos and paying for items in the DJI Store. However, we have removed some third-party plugins from our apps after discovering their operations do not meet our security standard," DJI said in a statement.
In JPush's case, DJI found that the plugin was collecting extraneous data on Android handsets - like which apps are installed on a phone - that it didn't need in order to carry out its primary function of sending a push notification.
The company said it has also removed ‘hot-patching' plugins jsPatch for iOS, and Tinker for Android - both of these allowed DJI to issue app updates without needing to roll out a whole new version of the app. These haven't been removed as a result of an error or privacy implications, but rather to ensure that all plugins and code goes through the same vetting process - hot-patching would have provided a way to circumvent this assessment period.
As part of its ongoing effort, there's also going to be an internal education programme for DJI's partners, to ensure best-practices are followed, and user privacy is respected.
"As a hardware manufacturer, we want to emphasize that DJI's focus is to provide the best possible user experience with our products. Our business model does not include selling user data for profit. Instead, DJI collects data to fix bugs, offer more responsive customer service and support a seamless user experience by updating apps to provide local safe flight information and settings," DJI said.
More broadly, the changes follow an increasing effort from DJI to improve the safety and privacy of its drones and apps. Alongside pulling the third-party plugins, its also launched a bug bounty programme.
Of course, this may have seemed like more of a priority since it had to issue a software update to its Spark drones, some of which had been randomly losing all power mid-flight. As a result, owners of the Spark will need to update the drone to the new firmware if they want to continue using them after September 1st.
Meanwhile, the UK as a whole is still in the midst of introducing new regulations that will require drones of more than 250 grams to be registered online.
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