Google prohibits personal loan apps from accessing user photos and contacts

by Ana Lopez

Google plans to restrict apps that offer loans to individuals from accessing sensitive user data such as photos, videos and contacts as the Android maker ramps up its response to the rise of predatory behavior from some lenders harassing borrowers.

The search giant on Wednesday updated its personal loan policies for apps on the Play Store to introduce new restrictions that prohibit apps from accessing external storage, photos, videos, contacts, precise location and call logs. The change takes effect on May 31.

“Apps that provide personal loans, or have the primary purpose of facilitating access to personal loans (i.e., lead generators or facilitators), should not be allowed to access sensitive data, such as photos and contacts,” the company said. said in his update.

According to recent reports, an emerging trend has raised concerns as certain individuals who obtained credit through mobile apps have been harassed by collection agencies. These collection agencies reportedly gained access to the borrowers’ personal contacts and notified friends and family of outstanding debts. In more extreme cases, agents have used manipulated images to further intimidate and alarm debtors. Tragically, some of these targets have succumbed to the pressure and committed suicide.

Such cases were well reported in markets such as India and Kenya. Google initially responded by blocking hundreds and thousands of personal loan apps from the Play Store after warnings from law enforcement and central banks. The company also introduced rules to ban unlicensed loaner apps from the Android App Store.

Google said it has also introduced the requirement to carry out specific licensing documentation for apps that appear on the Play Store and offer personal loans in Pakistan to “prove their ability to provide or facilitate credit”. The company has also made it mandatory for non-bank financial companies in the country to have only one digital loan app on the Play Store.

“Developers who attempt to publish more than one DLA per NBFC risk the termination of their developer account and all other associated accounts,” Google said.

The Android maker has been criticized in the past for not taking strong action against predatory lending apps. In response, the company introduced policy updates in markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya and the Philippines.

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