The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)—the agency that coordinates the development of information technology in Nigeria—is investigating Truecaller for an alleged breach of privacy rights.
Truecaller is an application that enables smartphone users to identify incoming callers and block spam calls and messages. As of 2007, more than six million Nigerians were using the app.
With the recent milestone of 500 million downloads and 150 million daily active users globally, rest assured that not less than seven million Nigerians are now using Truecaller app.
This man, self named “Engineer Samuel” called me and mentioned my full name 🤔 saying we had prior discussions, I told him I had no idea and he said he’ll “look for someone else for the job”— Fisayo Fosudo 🇳🇬 (@Fosudo) September 24, 2018
Only for me to check Truecaller and find this 🤦🏾♂️ pic.twitter.com/x1JOnrGv18
1.1 USER PROFILE
When You create a user profile in the Services and confirm being the holder of a certain number, Truecaller will collect the information provided by You. In order to create a user profile, You must register Your first name, last name and phone number. Additional information that may be provided at Your option include, but is not limited to, photo, gender, street address and zip code, country of residence, email address, professional website, Facebook page, Twitter address and a short status message. Truecaller may supplement the information provided by You with information from third parties and add it to the information provided by You e.g. demographic information and additional contact information that is publicly available.
By supplementing the personal data of Nigerians without consent or accuracy, NITDA says Truecaller exposes Nigerians to privacy invasion and provides a leeway for unscrupulous people to use the identities of Nigerians to perpetuate fraud.
1.2 INSTALLATION AND USE
Some information, including, but not limited to, usage information and other information that may arise from Your interaction with the Services, cannot be used to identify You, whether in combination with other information or otherwise and will not constitute personal information for the purposes of this Policy.
According to Article 2.3(2) d&e of the NDPR, which states: when assessing whether consent is freely given, utmost account shall be taken of whether, the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is conditional on consent to the processing of personal data that is not necessary (or excessive) for the performance of that contract and e) where data may be transferred to a third party for any reason whatsoever.
NITDA submits that Truecaller collects more information than it needs to carry out its primary service. The primary service of Truecaller is caller-identification and blocking of spam.
- SHARING AND DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
Truecaller may also share personal information with third party advertisers, agencies and networks. Such third parties may use this information for analytical and marketing purposes e.g. to provide measurement services and targeted ads and for improvement of products and services.
Although investigating Truecaller is dutiful of NITDA, the question to be answered is why now and what is the possible outcome of its investigation?
Why Truecaller, Why Now and What's Next?
Truecaller was founded in 2009 by Nami Zarringhalam and Alan Mamedi in Stockholm, Sweden.
The app was made available to Nigerians via the Google Playstore in 2012. Five years later, it launched a Developers Programme in Nigeria, tagged 'Truecaller SDK'. The goal of the Truecaller SDK is to enable third-party app developers and businesses to verify end-users with a one-touch and password free experience using Truecaller profile.
Before now, Nigerians were already aware of Truecaller's sharp practices in the collection and use of personal information. But there was no data protection regulation then. And in line with the maxim, "whenever someone wakes up is their morning", this could mark the beginning of a crackdown on services flouting the NDPR.
It is also noteworthy that NITDA just got a new boss, Kachifu Abdullahi, in August. He replaced Isa Ali Pantami, who is now Minister of Communications.
Should this investigation produce any result like suspension of Truecaller services in Nigeria or a fine, it might count as a good point for Mr Abdullahi, who is considered to be 'unqualified' to lead the agency by some people.
- DELISTING OF CONTACT INFORMATION AND OPT-OUT OF AD TARGETING
If a User chooses to disable the Enhanced Search Functionality, the Contact Information made available by that User is disabled and will thereafter not be available for search in the Truecaller database. If any persons do not wish to have their names and phone numbers made available through the Enhanced Search or Name Search functionalities, they can exclude themselves from further queries by notifying Truecaller via its website at www.truecaller.com or as set forth in the contact details below. You acknowledge and agree that Truecaller may keep and process personal information related to such request in order to be able to honor the request.
You can limit or opt-out of the collection and use of Your information for ad targeting by third parties via Your device settings.