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How Mobile Money Credit Apps Are Used For Mass Surveillance On Kenyans

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Keren Weitzberg, a researcher and educator based at University College London, and who’s currently working on a project on ID cards and biometrics in Kenya has opined that the growing mobile credit apps in Kenya are used for surveillance. According to her report “Mobile credit expands mass surveillance of ordinary Kenyans”, governments and corporations are using the digital credit services to expand their reach into people’s everyday lives. Financial technology, or fintech, is selling  Kenyans data, their routine and habits and transforming their behavior into data that can be monitored and assessed.

The report names Safaricom – a partly government-owned multinational telecom that controls the lion’s share of the Kenyan market – in partnership with Uhuru’s partially owned CBA bank as huge contributors to this huge breach of Kenyan citizens data. Safaricom has a lending service itself  (M-Shwari) and as both tax collector and shareholder, the Kenyan government has a direct financial stake in Safaricoms digital lending. Through mandatory SIM registration laws in the country, Safaricom is also collecting a great deal of data on their customers and consumer habits in what the watchdog group Privacy International called “a more pervasive system of mass surveillance” throughout Africa.

These digital lending companies ask for access into the lives of ordinary Kenyans before giving out loans which Kenyans readily agree to. They use everything from GPS data to how often people call their parents to social media feeds to assess customers’ creditworthiness. The companies collect M-Pesa transaction SMS, call behavior and handset information and due to lack of sufficient protection laws in the country the  mobile apps make profit by disclosing users’ information to third parties.

Related Content:  Safaricom Breached The Privacy Of 11.5M Customers By Exposing Their Sports Betting History, Biodata And Now Sued For Sh115 Trillion

Most Kenyans are already struggling to make ends meet and digital lending apps are not the solution, Infact they are more likely to worsen poverty by contributing to cycles of indebtedness, but in a country led by a man who has glorified borrowing with absolutely no regard for it’s citizens data, The Mpigs would rather use their time to come up with useless bills to tax bloggers and group admins rather than regulate this Digital-Fueled lending craze.


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