Google has disclosed that the company intends to prevent apps that offer personal loans from accessing sensitive user data such as photos, videos, and contacts.
This is in response to an increase in predatory lending practices by some lenders who harass borrowers.
On Wednesday, the search giant updated its Personal Loans policy for apps on the Play Store, imposing new restrictions prohibiting apps from accessing external storage, photos, videos, contacts, precise location, and call logs.
The change will take effect on May 31.
“Apps that provide personal loans, or have the primary purpose of facilitating access to personal loans (i.e., lead generators or facilitators), are prohibited from accessing sensitive data, such as photos and contacts,” the company said in its update.
According to recent reports, a worrying trend has emerged in which certain individuals who obtained credit through mobile apps have been harassed by debt collectors.
These debt collectors allegedly gained access to the borrowers’ personal contacts and informed friends and family of outstanding debts.
In more extreme cases, agents used manipulated images to further intimidate and distress debtors.
Unfortunately, a number of these targeted individuals have succumbed to the pressure and committed suicide.
Such incidents were widely publicised in markets such as India and Kenya.
After being alerted by law enforcement and central banks, Google initially responded by blocking hundreds of thousands of personal loan apps from the Play Store.
Google also stated that apps appearing on the Play Store offering personal loans in Pakistan must “prove their ability to provide or facilitate” credit by completing specific licencing documentation.
The company also mandated that all non-banking financial institutions in the country have only one digital lending app on the Play Store.
“Developers who attempt to publish more than one DLA per NBFC risk the termination of their developer account and any other associated accounts,” Google said.
The Android maker has previously been chastised for failing to take strong action against predatory loan apps.
In response, the company implemented policy changes in markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Philippines.