For FCCPC, its efforts rewarded as Google bars digital lending Apps from accessing sensitive user data

By Miriam Humbe, Abuja

The Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission, (FCCPC) and its collaborators on the Joint Regulatory & Enforcement Taskforce, (JRTF), welcomed Google’s policy of barring digital lending applications from accessing sensitive user data, saying that their efforts had finally been rewarded.

The Commission’s collaborators in the JRTF included the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, (NDPB).

It was gathered that the digital applications had been equipped to access personal information such as contacts, photos, videos, precise location data and call logs from its Play Store (platform of download by consumers).

FCCPC’s Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Mr Babatunde Irukera in a statement signed on Wednesday, said that the step was consistent with the Commission’s position and resolve that such access was intrusive, and violated consumer privacy on multiple levels.

He described Google’s policy of barring digital lending applications from accessing sensitive user data as “broad and responsible”.

Irukera said that the violation included, especially third-party privacy rights of persons who provided their personal information or data to customers or borrowers of digital lenders, but had no relationship or privity to the transaction[s] between such customers and the digital lenders.

The FCCPC boss said that this was an important step in streamlining and sanitising the digital lending space.

He said that it was an outcome of extended and intense investigation, enforcement, intervention, collaboration and engagement; and another example of how the right approach to regulation could improve and strengthen ecosystems.

Irukera said: “The Commission and partners on the JRTF recognise the value digital lending can, and does provide in society, as well as respect lenders’ desire, indeed prerogative to recover; and borrowers’ obligations to pay back loans.

“However, the Commission insists that this important component of commerce and consumer service is not incompatible, or mutually exclusive with legal, ethical and otherwise acceptable methods of recovery or securing compliance with obligations.

“Google’s progressive decision underscores this position of the Commission.

“The Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending (LIRRFGDL) published and enforced by the Commission preceded Google’s policy, and this institutionalisation by Google affirms legitimacy and further reduces the possibility or occurrence of abusive conduct by any lender.

“This is appropriate respite for consumers who have been subjected to abusive, intrusive, defamatory and other forms of unacceptable borrowing or recovery practices, and an assurance that such practices are less likely to occur going forward, and where they do, the regulatory process will address the illegal conduct”.

He said that the Commission was proud to have initiated and led this effort and set a pace that was becoming a globally applicable standard.

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