FG restricts online banks from accessing clients’ photographs and contacts

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Loan apps on the Play Store will lose access to their customers’ contacts and images on May 31, 2023.

This happened as the Federal Government announced that it will enforce Google’s latest policy, claiming that the step was consistent with Nigerian authorities’ efforts to limit the invasion of customers’ privacy by loan app providers.

The federal government has recently made significant measures targeted at addressing the infringement of customers’ privacy by loan apps. Notably, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission recently registered 170 loan apps out of the 200 that are already in operation in the country.

Google stated in its April 2023 policy adjustments that the new policy update will bring relief to loan app users in Nigeria and other countries who had grown accustomed to the crude loan retrieval methods used by the bulk of loan applications.

“Policy preview (effective May 31, 2023):” Google stated. This article previews policy changes that will be implemented in April 2023.

“We are updating our personal loans policy to state that apps that provide or facilitate personal loans are not permitted to access user contacts or photos.”

“We are introducing new requirements for personal loan apps aimed at Pakistani users.” In Pakistan, personal loan apps must present country-specific licensing papers to demonstrate their ability to provide or facilitate personal loans.”

This new policy follows the firm’s announcement of revisions to its Developer Program Policy, which requires digital money lenders in Nigeria, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Kenya to comply with regulatory standards or be shut down by January 31.

According to the firm, only digital money lenders who have adhered to and completed the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending, 2022 (as amended from time to time) and obtained a verifiable approval letter from the FCCPC will be allowed on Play Store in Nigeria.

The FCCPC’s Chief Executive Officer, Babatunde Irukera, told journalists that the new policy was a welcome development that demonstrated Google’s regulatory policy was being institutionalized.

“It is a welcome development effort that is consistent with the FCCPC’s position and what we are enforcing,” he said.

“Google is now formalizing our regulatory effort as a policy, which is very encouraging.” It is unquestionably critical for adequate regulatory oversight of the industry, and we applaud Google for taking a position commensurate with ours as regulators.”

“Recall that we took this position earlier,” he continued, “and what has happened is that Google has looked at the regulatory landscape, looked at regulatory priorities, and is supporting those priorities by institutionalizing those regulatory priorities and position.”

According to the FCCPC, it has just accepted 173 digital lending applications to operate throughout the country. 119 of these received full approval, while 54 received provisional approval. This action became essential as lending apps began harassing Nigerians by sending defamatory messages to their connections, among other things.

The commission’s ‘Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending 2022′ is an attempt to govern the digital lending area and require registration and approval for organizations intending to operate in it.

Although Google’s policy stipulates that it does not “allow apps that promote personal loans that require repayment in full in 60 days or less from the date the loan is issued,” many loan apps in the country do not follow it, leaving many Nigerians vulnerable to confidential data leaks.

Speaking recently on Arise TV about how the commission’s recent registration drive will protect Nigerians’ privacy, Irukera stated, “We also want to restrain what kind of information they are able to pull off people’s phones and what they are able to do with that information, especially with respect to making contact with people on the contact list, and their loan recovery practices; the kind of language the times they call, what kind of things they say.”

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