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Google prohibits personal loan apps from accessing sensitive user data

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Photo: Primakov / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Primakov / Shutterstock.com

In taking another step to block predatory loan apps from the Android app store, Google announced on Wednesday that it’s updating its Personal Loans policy to prohibit loan apps from accessing external storage, photos, videos, contacts, precise location and call logs. The change goes into effect on May 31. 

Specifically, the company stated that apps that “provide personal loans or have the primary purpose of facilitating access to personal loans (i.e., lead generators or facilitators), are prohibited from accessing sensitive data, such as photos and contacts” in an update

Additionally, personal loan apps in Pakistan must submit country-specific licensing documentation to prove their ability to provide or facilitate personal loans. It’s also mandatory for non-banking financial companies in the country to only have a single lending app on the Play Store. Any developer found attempting to publish more than one DLA per NBFC risks the termination of their developer account and any other associated accounts. 

Google has been heavily criticised in the past for not regulating predatory lending apps on the Play Store leading to some horrific consequences. Borrowers taking loans from such apps often end up giving up personal data, which is then used by debt collectors to put pressure and intimidate borrowers into paying back the principal which is often paired with exorbitant interest rates. 

Fake lending apps abuse borrowers into paying back much higher amounts and sometimes even resort to extortion.

The intimidation involves verbal abuse hurled at borrowers over Whatsapp. At times, these agents go as far as to manipulate images taken from the borrower’s device to push a false narrative often accusing the victim of some serious crime which has even led to some borrowers giving in to the pressure and taking their own lives. 

Such apps were most active in India and Kenya, where Android dominates the smartphone market. Google has been asked multiple times by the Indian government and the Reserve Bank of India to enforce more strict checks in place the remove illegal digital lending apps on the Google Play Store.

The Indian Finance Ministry even went as far as directing the RBI to create a ‘whitelist’ of all legal lending apps allowed on app stores available in the country. So far, Google has responded by blocking thousands of such apps from the Play Store and introducing rules banning unlicensed loan apps from the Play Store. 

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Yadullah Abidi

Someone who writes/edits/shoots/hosts all things tech and when he's not, streams himself racing virtual cars. You can contact him here: [email protected]

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