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A few weeks ago, I received a WhatsApp message from an unknown number claiming that someone had taken a loan and was now on the run. The message also threatened to publish my contact details and photo on social media, as they were supposedly uploaded to the loan app.

Although I found it amusing, it highlighted the disturbing pattern of fintech apps offering lending services (names withheld), or "loan sharks" that use personal contacts to harass borrowers who have taken out loans via mobile apps. This experience also made me reflect on how easily we can fall victim to public shaming on social media, even for a loan we may not be aware of.

These mostly unregulated lenders employ unethical data-sharing practices and debt-shaming tactics to force customers into repayment, and in some cases, they have even resorted to manipulating images to intimidate and distress those in debt. This trend is particularly concerning in markets such as Nigeria, India, Kenya, and Indonesia, and Google's actions aim to prevent it.

In this edition of Techloy Weekly (formerly The Draft), we are highlighting Google's latest efforts to safeguard user privacy by preventing loan apps from accessing sensitive personal data like contacts, photos, and videos. This move comes in response to reports of predatory behaviour by some lenders who harass borrowers.

Google's Personal Loans policy update for apps on the Play Store will soon prohibit apps from accessing external storage, photos, videos, contacts, precise location, and call logs, effective from May 31, 2023.

Before this time, in response to alerts from law enforcement agencies and central banks, Google – "the pseudo-regulator of African digital credit providers" – has already started removing thousands of personal loan apps from the Play Store and is establishing regulations to prohibit unlicensed loan apps from the Android app store.

To a Good Friday!


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