‘Treat personal data as gems’: Computer professionals advise in ‘Dangers of Lyka app’ post

February 15, 2021 - 6:33 PM
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Facebook photo of Lyka app (LYKA/Facebook)

A group of computer professionals cautioned the public from using Lyka, a new social media app, citing privacy concerns for its monetary award system.

Lyka, which launched in Southeast Asia in March 2019, is a platform that combines the features of social media and e-commerce wherein users can post content, interact with another virtually, and earn money from this engagement via a “gem” system.

Users can collect Lyka gems and use them to purchase items from its partner stores.

A neophyte in the social media scene, Lyka already has its roster of celebrities promoting its features to their followers.

These include Ivana Alawi, Gabbi Garcia, Arci Muñoz, Billy Crawford, Nadine Lustre and Coleen Garcia, among others.

A scheme for a market research?

In a Facebook post titled “The Dangers of Lyka” on Sunday, the Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU) warned Filipinos that Lyka’s promise of monetary value per online engagement might be a scheme for a market research.

“Getting monetary rewards just from participating in a social media platform may seem like a dream come true for many people, but you may just end up as unwitting subjects for a large-scale market research,” it said.

“Since engagement becomes the primary way to earn GEMs, this incentivizes people to share more and more information on the platform,” it added.

It defined GEMS as “Gift Card in Electronic Mode.”

The group also cited several provisions from Lyka’s “Privacy Policy” it perceived as “red flags”:

  1. Section A states the user’s personal information such as name, address, phone number, and bank account numbers and in case the user registers as a celebrity, a valid government-issued identification card will be collected for registration or login.
  2. Section C states Lyka may disclose their users’ personal data to other marketing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter “to assist us to provide services to you or who otherwise process Personal Data for purposes described in this Privacy Policy or notified to you when we collect your Personal Data.”

These policies therefore render users without control over their own personal data, stated the CPU.

“Since there’s no transparency as to who will have access to our personal data, users will not have visibility over how data will be handled, enabling Lyka and its partners to do whatever they please with the data they amassed,” group said.

“One example of companies selling personal data for profit is Facebook’s numerous data-sharing deals done in order to gain an advantage and profit share,” it added.

Other issues

The CPU also cited a previous complaint about the Lyka app allegedly accessing a user’s camera without consent.

This complaint was raised by a Reddit user who shared it at the forum in June last year.

The Reddit user claimed that the app is trying to “access” the user’s mobile phone camera despite not being prompted to do so.

Lyka CEO Ryan Baird had previously responded to this incident in January, saying that it was just a “glitch” that has been “fixed and resolved.”

 

The information and communications technology advocates, meanwhile, brought up technical issues that other mobile applications also encounter such as bugs in the system and troubles in deleting an account.

What the NBI said

In an interview with Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho last month, National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division chief Victor Lorenzo explained that all applications seek permission to get data from users.

“Lahat naman ng application humihingi sila ng permission if you are willing for them to have access to your contacts, photos,” he said in a KMJS episode that aired January 24.

He also cited that the questioned app has partnered with accredited financial institutions which he said means the application receive percentage in the sales.

Lyka’s response

In the same KMJS episode, Sophia Nguyen, president of global corporation of Lyka explained that “gems” are equivalent to “electronic check” that their patrons can use when purchasing from their partner merchants.

She said that their difference with other social networking apps such as Facebook and YouTube is that the users and not only content creators are being rewarded.

“The more you rate, the more you post, the more reward there is,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen also allayed the privacy and security fears of the public and said that every action in their app requires user’s permission.

“We do not have any access to our user’s microphones, cameras or privacy without any prior permission,” the Lyka exec said.

“The thing is, we hired talented team of developers around the world to ensure that our client’s security safety and data [are] always taken care of,” Nguyen added.

‘Treat your data as gems’

The CPU, however, advised users and other Filipinos to treat their personal data as “gems” that should not be given for free.

“Treat your personal information as the gems that they are and remember that ‘free’ doesn’t truly exist when it comes to social media. If you didn’t have to pay money to use an app, you pay with your personal data and privacy instead,” the group said.

“As the saying goes: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Having said that, it’s important to acknowledge that individuals can only do so much as long as data remains in the control of the powerful and privileged. Data security and privacy are community problems that require community-based solutions,” it added.