Google has announced that it will ban financial lending apps from accessing user photos, videos, and contacts to address predatory behavior from some lenders. The move comes in response to reports of harassment and intimidation of borrowers, particularly in countries like Kenya and India, where individuals who have received loans from mobile credit apps have been on the receiving end of harassment after failing to repay those loans.
The new policy, which goes into effect on May 31, aims to stop predatory loan apps from harassing and intimidating borrowers into paying outstanding debts, which often come with huge interest rates. In Pakistan, the policy also requires “country-specific licensing documentation to prove their ability to provide or facilitate personal loans.”
By accessing borrowers’ personal contacts and their personal images, debt collectors have sent manipulated photos to friends and family of debtors. According to TechCrunch, a number of these targeted individuals took their lives after the harassment.
In response to the widespread debt harassment, Google removed hundreds of loan apps from the Play Store in Kenya and over 2,000 loan apps from India last year. However, some lenders have found ways to circumvent Google’s policies by accessing user information through third-party apps.
The move by Google is a step in the right direction to address predatory behavior in the lending industry, but more needs to be done to protect vulnerable borrowers. Governments and regulatory bodies need to take a more proactive approach to regulating the lending industry and enforce stricter penalties for lenders who engage in predatory practices.
In addition, financial literacy programs and consumer protection agencies should be established to educate borrowers on the risks associated with taking out high-interest loans and provide them with information on alternative sources of financing.
Google’s decision to ban financial lending apps from accessing user photos, videos, and contacts is a positive step in addressing predatory behavior in the lending industry. However, it is just one of many steps that need to be taken to protect vulnerable borrowers from harassment and intimidation. Governments, regulatory bodies, and consumer protection agencies must work together to create a safe and fair lending environment for all borrowers.