Google to prevent financial lending apps from accessing user photos, contacts

Google will prevent apps that offer loans to individuals from gaining access to their photos, videos, and contacts in a bid to address predatory behaviour from some lenders.

Google to prevent financial lending apps from accessing user photos, contacts

In a bid to stop predatory loan apps from harassing and intimidating borrowers into paying outstanding debts, Google has announced a ban on financial lending apps from accessing users’ photos and contacts.

"We’re updating our personal loans policy to state that apps aiming to provide or facilitate personal loans may not access user contacts or photos," according to Google, which says the change goes into effect on May 31.

The new policy is being rolled out in markets hardest hit by the practice, like Pakistan, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines. Recently, in these countries, individuals who have received loans from mobile credit apps have been on the receiving end of harassment after failing to repay those loans.

By accessing borrowers’ personal contacts and their personal images, debt collectors have sent manipulated photos to friends and family of debtors. A number of these targeted individuals took their lives after the harassment, TechCrunch says.

In response to the widespread debt harassment, Google initially responded by blocking hundreds and then thousands of personal loan apps from the Play Store after being alerted by law enforcement agencies and central banks. The company also introduced rules to ban unlicensed loan apps from the Android app store.

The policy which affects binary options, cryptocurrencies and personal loans stipulated that “if your app contains or promotes financial products and services, you must comply with regional and local regulations for any region or country that your app targets – for example, include specific disclosures required by local law.”

The additional requirements for personal loans in Nigeria will be to:

  • Complete the personal loan app declaration for Nigeria and provide necessary documentation to support your declaration.
  • Digital money lenders (DML) must adhere to and complete the limited interim regulatory/registration framework and guidelines for digital lending, 2022 (as may be amended from time to time) by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) of Nigeria and obtain a verifiable approval letter from the FCCPC.
  • Loan aggregators must provide documentation and/or certification for digital lending services and contact details for every partnered DML.
  • Upon Google Play's request, app creators must provide additional information or documents relating to their compliance with the applicable regulatory and licensing requirements.

Related posts: How Nigerian Debtors are robbing digital lenders

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