Data protection: Safeguarding customers from fraudsters

A topic that has been up for debate several times is data protection. Do companies really favour their customers when it comes to how they treat their private data? Scandals in this area tell a different story with some companies like Facebook continuously facing litigation resulting in huge payouts as settlements.

Also read: How you can protect your data on the internet

Even as companies collect people’s information, they don’t usually do much to protect it leaving it in the hands of merchants who bombard customers thereafter with unsolicited messages advertising their products.

This has been an all too frequent occurrence, leaving customers dissatisfied. Financial technology is taking over several sectors of our daily life, yet this is one of the drawbacks of its progress. Because the majority of fintechs strive to aggregate payments between customers and merchants, data such as users’ contact details are exchanged.

How merchants get access to user data is quite easy. Because merchants are the link between service providers and customers, those paying for goods and services leave their numbers and names with thousands of merchants.

With the phone numbers and buying habits, the merchants use personal information to send unsolicited advertising through text messages.

The information can also be sold to third parties without consent in breach of the data protection law passed in 2019 to protect privacy.

Safaricom of Kenya has taken the initiative to limit the access to user information by merchants. It will introduce a feature blocking customer contact details when making payments through Lipa na M-Pesa. The telco will only display the first and last few digits of a phone number, blocking the middle and effectively hiding the contact of the customer.

Read also: Safaricom launches eSim service in Kenya

The company believes this will help to protect consumers by curbing the sharing of personal information being traded to advertisers or fraudsters.

A similar strategy is used with banks where they only share a few digits of people’s account numbers when sharing customer information to avoid disclosing details of their customers.

The Data Protection Act

The data protection act established in 2019 in Uganda works to protect consumers that may not be aware of such policies in companies. The data protection act implemented by National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U) works as the regulator of data protection with the goal of protecting people in the digital world.

The Act was enacted in 2019, guaranteeing the protection of privacy in the digital world. The Act focuses on the protection of privacy and personal data through regulation of its collection, processing and storage.

Read more: NITA-U confirms that SafeBoda privacy policy does not put user data at risk

NITA-U as a regulator has carried out several efforts towards educating the public about how to keep themselves safe online.

The move made by Safaricom is exemplary and one that creates trust between the company and its customers as they have confidence that it looks out for their welfare. Early this month, NITA-U launched the Cyber Security Awareness Campaign which is aimed at increasing public awareness and vigilance about the day-to-day cyber threats. The campaign is funded by World Bank as part of the Regional Communications Infrastructure Project.

It set up a centralized website that will be a central knowledge hub for anyone seeking information on cybersecurity tips.

Read more: The NITA-U cybersecurity campaign unveils website with tips to avoid cyber attacks

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