The widespread misuse of personal data has led to the Data Protection Commission (DPC) issuing a warning note to the public about unauthorized online lending applications (apps).
Patricia Adusei-Poku, the executive director of the Commission, in a statement disclosed that her outfit has received many complaints from users of illegal online money lending programs about violations of their privacy and personal data rights.
“Digital loan services have become an increasingly easy-to-go-to avenue for people to access credit, as many are unable or ineligible to secure loans through traditional providers such as the banks. But in recent times, the Data Protection Commission has received tons of complaints regarding the harassment and debt shaming approaches these online digital loan services are using to deal with defaulters.
“Our background checks have established that these online loan applications are unlicensed and therefore have no authorization to operate,”Patricia Adusei-Poku
The DPC explained that upon installation, digital lending apps need to have access to users’ private information, such as their contacts, text messages, location, and calendar. It stands to reason that the data gathered would be used to screen users’ behavior and determine their eligibility for loans.
However, it bemoaned complaints from borrowers which indicated that the data collected is to debt shame when these borrowers’ default in payment.
Other complaints revealed that loan administrators continued to violate borrowers’ private rights even in the event of complete repayment by using the data in their possession.
“Unfortunately, these apps remain largely unchecked and have continued in their operations causing distress, defaming borrowers and violating the privacy of individuals.
“Some notions coming out earlier had indicated that google had pulled down these loan apps from the google play store but our checks have proved that to be an untrue statement. The apps are fully operational and available to be installed by the public.”DPC statement
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According to the statement, the numerous complaints that have been sent to the Data Protection Commission over the years illustrate the uproar that these apps have brought upon the nation.
“We have also assessed a few privacy notices of these apps which complicate their mode of operation as they do not show any accountability to their clients in terms of how their data is going to be used in actual fact.
“We have looked at the privacy policies of these apps and have determined the below mentioned apps have and continue to process individuals’ personal data in a manner that is not consistent with the provisions of the Act, and they are: Ficashx; popcash; kudicredit; Cocoaloan; Popcash; smartmoney; sikapurse; Easy Loan; SoftKash; Boseafie Loans; Fourcredy; Sika dua; Creditbay; Creditlab; Akwaaba Cash; and MomCash. Others are: Ultra Loans; Onloans; Loan Pro; Cedi Story; Machloan; Loan Galaxy; and Pro Kash.”DPC Statement
These loan apps, as communicated by DPC, have breached and continue to breach the Data Protection Act in several ways primarily as they are not registered with the Data Protection Commission as stipulated in section (46) 3 of Act 843.
“We continue to encourage data subjects who have fallen victim to submit their complaints. The Commission is ever ready to assist the police with their investigations as we have already handed over valid documents and filed complaints from Data Subjects that evidence the unlawful ways of operations of these apps.
“We call on the Cyber security unit of the Bank of Ghana, the National Cyber Security Authority and all other relevant agencies to rally efforts in fishing out the location of operation of these loan apps and apprehend these illegal data controllers to cease their operations.”DPC Statement
It concluded that: “We also call on the public to stay alert and refrain from downloading apps that request access to their personal and private space. We also encourage individuals to take time to read the contracts they enter to make sure their privacy is not infringed”.