The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has sanctioned an online lending platform, Soko Lending Company Limited (Soko Loans), with a fine of N10m for privacy invasion.
This was contained in a statement by its Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, on Tuesday.
According to the statement, the Agency said the action followed the series of complaints against the company for unauthorized disclosures, failure to protect customers’ personal data and defamation of character as well as carrying out the necessary due diligence as enshrined in the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR).
“One of such complaints filed by Bloomgate Solicitors on behalf of its client, the data subject, was received on Monday, 11th November 2019. NITDA, as part of its due diligence process, commenced investigation over the alleged infractions of the provisions of the NDPR,” the statement reads in part.
“Soko Loans grants its customers uncollateralised loans and requires a loanee to download its mobile application on their phone and activate a direct debit in the company’s favour. The app gains access to the loanee’s phone contacts.
“According to one of the complainants, when he failed to meet up with his repayment obligations due to insufficient credit in his account on the date the direct debit was to take effect, the company unilaterally sent privacy invading messages to the complainant’s contacts.
“Investigation revealed that complainants’ contacts who were neither parties to the loan transaction nor consented to the processing of their data have confirmed the receipt of such messages.”
The Agency said it made strident efforts to get Soko Loan to change the unethical practice but to no avail.
“After the Agency’s investigation team secured a lien order on one of the company’s accounts by which it could come up with privacy enhancing solutions for its business model, Soko Loan decided to rebrand and directs its customers to pay into its other business accounts.
“The Agency’s investigation further revealed that the company embeds trackers that share data with third parties inside its mobile application without providing users information about it or using the appropriate lawful basis,” it said.
NITDA said it found Soko Loan to be in violation of the use of the non-conforming privacy notice, contrary to Article 2.5 and 3.1(7) of the NDPR.
The statement added that the Agency has directed that no further privacy invading messages be sent to any Nigerian until the company and its entities showed full compliance with the NDPR.