NPC probes, orders takedown of four online lending apps due to data privacy issues

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Online lending apps JuanHand, Lemon Loan, CashJeep, and Pesopop have been ordered banned by the National Privacy Commission for allegedly engaging in unauthorized and “excessive” use of borrowers’ personal data.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — The National Privacy Commission has ordered the immediate takedown of four online lending apps which are now being probed for their alleged unauthorized and “excessive” use of borrowers’ personal data.

The NPC on Wednesday reported that it received numerous complaints against JuanHand, Lemon Loan, CashJeep, and Pesopop, which it said have harvested personal and sensitive information without their users’ free and informed consent.

The four are currently being investigated for violations of the Data Privacy Act and other issuances by the NPC.

According to the privacy watchdog, the apps have gained access to “practically all the data” in their users’ mobile devices, which “may be weaponized to harass and shame delinquent borrowers” in order to collect debts.

It said these platforms can obtain sensitive personal data, location, photos, media files, emails, contact lists, and information from social media sites.

The lenders can also collect details from third parties, such as employers, utilities, government agencies, remittance companies, and insurance and financial services providers, the NPC added.

“In particular, JuanHand, for example, has an invasive manner of using personal data,” it said. “It can read a borrower’s calendar of events and confidential information, add, and modify calendar events, and send emails to contacts without the borrower’s knowledge."

The apps' operators — Wefund Lending Corporation, Joywin Lending Investor Inc., Cash8 Lending Corporation, and Populus Lending Corporation — have already been directed to halt the processing of their users’ personal data.

The NPC added these companies were given the opportunity to reply to its findings.

Without specifying, it said two did not file position papers, while the other two failed to convince the commission on why it should not impose the ban.

It has also furnished copies of the takedown orders to both the National Telecommunications Commission and the Google LLC for the removal of the apps from the internet and the Google Play Store.

Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said these steps are necessary to prevent serious privacy risks and protect the rights of data subjects.

“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,” Liboro said.

Based on Google’s statistics, JuanHand has been downloaded more than a million times. Lemon Loan and Pesopop, on the other hand, have each been downloaded more than 500,000 times, while CashJeep, over 100,000 times.

The NPC said it is also looking into more than 200 other online lending apps available for download and will issue orders and other actions based on investigation results.

CNN Philippines is trying to reach the companies operating the four apps for comment.