Firm seeks to protect users’ privacy
By Antony Mutunga
Safaricom has introduced a “blocking” feature that will ensure the contact details of a user are not shared when making payments through their Lipa na M-Pesa service.
The company says merchants have been using customers’ personal information to send unsolicited advertisements through text messages while others go the extra mile of selling the information to third parties without consent.
Normally, when paying for goods and services using the service, customers leave their credentials with hundreds and thousands of merchants around the country leading to issues of identity theft and financial fraud. But the new feature is more unique as the firm will only display the first and last few digits of a user’s phone number.
This comes after a recent survey by consultancy Ernst & Young revealed that over a fifth of companies in the country share out customers’ information without consent. The survey says 41% of firms sold their clients’ information to third party service providers, adding that the personal information shared was mainly used for analysis, processing transactions, sending SMS alerts and advertising.
The survey also stated that there were also instances of selling the data to vendors. Another worrying trend is the sharing of client information to third parties, which has led to unregulated text messages, unsolicited emails or notifications of services and products like insurance policies.
Despite a majority of the world’s population moving a number of their daily tasks online, privacy is still highly valued. Perhaps the data protection law passed in 2019 may put a stop to scammers who target users on their mobile phones – the law states that individuals who share information without consent risk a maximum fine of Sh3mn or 10 years of prison time while firms risk up to Sh5mn, or up to 1% of their annual turnover.