I recently was in a third world country which is know as a police state with heavy cyber surveillance. I noticed that brand new smartphones came in a box that had a nice holographic seal showing the map of that country. (To be specific, it was a Samsung A8, a legitimate one---not counterfeit.)
Is there a chance that certain smartphones sold in that country could have some built-in hard/soft/firmware to facilitate state surveillance? Is that seal just used for benign branding purposes (akin to the Maple leaf on McDonald's logos in Canada), or does it betray a more sinister arrangement between the manufacturer and the regime?
Let me further qualify the question. I realize that a police state will have no problem accessing any kind of telecommunication, but my question is more specific to the actual physical phone facilitating the identification of private individuals. For example, if I were to use a foreign SIM card in that phone, either in that country or abroad, would the surveillance still be possible precisely because it is tied to a "rigged" device. Or to rephrase it differently, would you buy that phone or would the country-specific branding of a major smartphone manufacturer be cause for concern?