NPC bans four lending apps over privacy violations

THE NATIONAL Privacy Commission (NPC) has ordered the immediate takedown of four online lending apps that have been the subject of complaints for alleged unauthorized use of personal data.

Borrowers have complained that online lending apps JuanHand, Pesopop, CashJeep, and Lemon Loan have been using users’ personal data to shame and harass them to collect debt.

The companies operating the apps are being investigated for violations of the Data Privacy Act, while their directors, officers, and agents are being investigated for possible criminal liability.

“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,” NPC said in a statement Wednesday.

Personal information is being collected and used without user consent, the NPC added. The commission’s investigation arm, after examining the apps, found that they violated transparency rules in the data privacy law.

The commission in four separate orders directed Wefund Lending Corp., Joywin Lending Investor, Inc., Cash8 Lending Corp., and Populus Lending Corp. — operators of Juan Hand, Lemon Loan, CashJeep, and Pesopop, respectively — to stop processing their borrowers’ personal data.

NPC also sent copies of the orders to the National Telecommunications Commission and Google LLC to take down the apps from the internet and app stores.

Privacy Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro said that the ban will help mitigate serious risks to consumer privacy.

“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,” he said.

The commission said that two of the app operators did not file position papers in response to the findings, while another two failed to convince the NPC that it should not file the ban.

The NPC is investigating more than 200 online lending apps available for download. In 2019, the agency banned 26 apps after their operators failed to answer allegations on the use of personal data to shame borrowers. — Jenina P. Ibanez