The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has sanctioned an online lending platform, Soko Lending Company Limited (SokoLoans), for privacy invasion.
This action was taken after receiving series of complaints against the company for unauthorized disclosures, failure to protect customers’ personaldata 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 BloomgateSolicitors 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.
Soko Loans grants its customers uncollateralisedloans 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 obligationsdue 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’ contactswho were neither parties to the loan transaction nor consented to the processing of their data have confirmed the receipt of such messages. The Agency made strident efforts to get Soko Loan to change the unethical practice but to no avail. After the Agency’s investigation team secured a lienorder 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.
NITDA has therefore found Soko Loan and its entities in violation of the following legal provisions:
In view of the foregoing and in consideration of its implication on the privacy of Nigerians and erosion of trust in the digital economy, NITDA hereby:
It may be noted that the criminal aspects of this investigation has been deposited with the Nigeria Police to determine if the executives of the company are liable to imprisonment for violating Section 17 of the NITDA Act, 2007.
NITDA therefore uses this medium to remind all Nigerian businesses and data controllers of their obligation to engage NITDA–licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO) to guide them towards compliance with the data protection law. The Agency is poised to fully enforce the NDPR with the aim of sanitising the operating environment, instilling confidence in the digital economy and protecting the right to privacy of Nigerians.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is the apex regulator for Information Technology in Nigeria under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy. The Agency is empowered by Section 6(c) of the NITDA Act,2007 to develop guidelines for electronic governance and monitor the use of electronic data interchange and other forms of electronic communication transactions in Nigeria. The Agency issued the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) as Nigeria’s first comprehensive framework for the protection of personal data. The NDPR provides the principles and framework for the protection and processing of personal data of Nigerians and residents.