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Online lending execs face charges for shaming users, data privacy violations

MANILA, Philippines – The National Privacy Commission (NPC) formally charged executives of online lending apps which allegedly publicly harassed and shamed borrowers who failed to pay their balances on time.

Charged were the following:

The charged executives could face imprisonment of up to 7 years and fines of not more than P5 million under the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (DPA). The commission found the board members to have violated the following sections of the DPA:

The NPC found that the companies "have not complied with legal requirements for processing personal data; failed to adhere to the principles of transparency, legitimate purpose and proportionality; and committed unauthorized processing; processing for unauthorized purpose; malicious disclosure; and unauthorized disclosure." 

The investigations were spurred by continuous complaints sent to the NPC from users of lending apps. From July 6, 2018, to July 31, 2019, the NPC reported receiving a total of 689 complaints against these apps, comprising around 55% of the total complaints filed with the NPC.

"The public shaming [the apps] carried out has caused anxiety, depression; some have even lost jobs and feel they became unemployable, that their reputation and future was put in jeopardy. The permanence of these damages is disproportionate to the mere delinquency in paying debts, sometimes as low as P1,000," NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro said.

The NPC's fact-finding team has also recommended issuing a temporary or permanent ban on the processing of personal data by the lending firms. It also said that it seeks to have the apps removed from the Google Play Store. 

"The investigation determined that their business practice specifically targets the privacy of persons, practically making a profit out of people's fear of losing face and dignity. These unethical practices simply have no place in a civilized society and must stop," said Liboro. – Rappler.com