The advancement of digital credit through the use of mobile loan apps has experienced massive adoption not only in Africa but globally as well.
With their characteristic short-term and unsecured attributes playing a major factor in their endorsements in relation to other conventional and formal avenues of accessing credit such as banks.
Nonetheless, banks are gradually joining in on the bandwagon and gaining the upper hand when it comes to customer engagement unlike unregulated private entities, that operate irrationally thereby placing borrowers at their mercy of high interest rates and short loan tenures.
Furthermore, numerous complaints arising from harassment upon loan due dates through constant calls and messages to borrowers as well as phonebook contacts are awash in the various social media.
This unethical behavior therefore begs the question of how such loan apps are able to access one’s phone details as well as the legality of invasion of privacy committed by these apps.
Below, we will look at how such loan apps are able to obtain such crucial personal information and debunk some of the myths surrounding methods to deny them access.
Besides digital loans offered by money-transfer providers like Mshwari, KCB-Mpesa and Fuliza which are accessible via the SIM toolkit or USSD, majority of them are available through apps downloaded from the Playstore or Appstore.
Once such apps are downloaded and installed, there are usually app permission requests that need to be granted in-order for the app to function fully.
Such app permissions for individual apps available in the Playstore can be viewed prior to downloading through the below steps:
1. Search for the loan app
2. Once the app has been found, click on ‘About this app‘
3. Scroll down to App permissions and click on ‘See More‘
4. The full details regarding the app’s permission request will be displayed.
Alternatively, during installation some apps may request for permissions that requires manual input to either Accept or Deny.
In case such grant access prompts are not available during or post-installation, one can manually view the app’s permissions via the phone settings menu.
Depending on your phone’s model and android version, the procedure may defer slightly but in general, the steps are as below.
1. Go to ‘Settings‘
2. Click on ‘Manage Apps‘
3. Select the app you want to view and click on ‘App Permissions‘
4. In this menu, users can manually enable/disable the app permissions at will.
Despite the availability of a disabling option for app permissions, it does not automatically translate to your data being completely inaccessible by the app.
The reality to the matter is that, once the app is has been installed with all permissions granted and connected to a data network, all your device details such as device make and model, operating system, installed software applications, unique user identifier, email, phone-book contacts and information relating to device activity such as call logs, SMS logs and GPS location information are uploaded and stored in the app’s servers.
If you later deny the app permissions or uninstall it, the data already uploaded will still remain in the servers but the app will not be able to collect any additional data after this.
This fact can be proven whenever you clear app data/ cache, uninstall or completely reset your phone, once you reinstall the app even after 3 months, all your app data will be restored.
This is also an explanation to why one cannot claim to close their account by simply uninstalling and never using the app again, one needs to expressly communicate to the loan app provider so that the lender can purge the individual’s details from their servers.