Shutdown: 4 loan apps accessed Filipino borrowers’ pics, email, social media

August 26, 2021 - 2:20 PM
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Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay

Lending apps JuanHand, Pesopop, CashJeep and Lemon Loan were found to have violated data privacy laws of borrowers and are ordered to shut down.

The National Privacy Commission said on Wednesday, August 25 that the apps will are to be taken down from the internet and removed from Google Play Store following their investigation.

They also furnished copies of these orders to the National Telecommunications Commission.

“These apps have been the subject of various complaints of unauthorized use of personal data that resulted in harassment and shaming of borrowers and are currently being investigated for violations of the Data Privacy Act and other NPC issuances,” read their statement.

The NPC sadi the apps have access to a “trove of information” from borrowers’ mobile devices that can be “weaponized” for harassment.

“The NPC said the apps have gained access to a trove of information in the borrowers’ mobile devices, including contacts and social media data, that are excessive and may be weaponized to harass and shame delinquent borrowers before persons in their mobile devices’ contact list to collect debts,” they said.

The suspension of their operations shall remain in effect until the NPC decides to lift it.

The commissioner stated that the companies involved were provided enough time to respond to their report.

However, two of them did not file position papers. The other two failed to convince the NPC not to shut them down.

Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro explained why it is crucial to prevent these apps from operating again.

“These online lending apps raised many red flags and the companies operating these apps demonstrate problematic data actions that expose borrowers to serious privacy risks and harms,” Liboro said.

Violations

The commission also issued separate orders to the apps’ operators to halt the processing of their borrowers’ personal data.

These operators are:

  • Wefund Lending Corporation (JuanHand)
  • Joywin Lending Investor Inc. (Lemon Loan)
  • Cash8 Lending Corporation (Cash Jeep)
  • Populus Lending Corporation (Pesopop)

Based on the report of NPC’s Complaints and Investigation Division (CID) which received reports and complaints from borrowers against them, the apps had nearly complete access to the borrowers’ personal and sensitive information from their mobile devices.

These include “location, photos, media files, emails, contact lists, and data from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google +.”

NPC noted that this level of access violates “the principles of transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality” in the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and the NPC issuance on the Processing of Personal Data for Loan-Related Transactions (NPC Circular No. 20-01).

JuanHand was specifically cited in its “invasive manner” of using their borrowers’ personal information.

“In particular, JuanHand, for example, has an invasive manner of using personal data. It can read a borrower’s calendar of events and confidential information, add, and modify calendar events, and send emails to contacts without the borrower’s knowledge,” NPC said.

Of the four, JuanHand has been downloaded the most from Google Play with over one million, followed by Lemon Loan and Pesopop with more than 500,000 downloads each, and then CashJeep with over 100,000 downloads.

In 2019, NPC had also issued a ban against 26 online lending apps for rendering similar violations.

These platforms were also removed from Google through coordination with the NTC.