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NITDA Penalizes Soko Loan For Privacy Invasion

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has sanctioned an online lending platform, Soko Lending Company Limited (Soko Loans), for privacy invasion.

This action was taken after receiving series of complaints against the company for unauthorized disclosures, failure to protect customers’ personal data and defamation of character as well as carrying out the necessary due diligence as enshrined in the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR). 

One of such complaints filed by Bloomgate Solicitors on behalf of its client, the data subject, was received on Monday, 11th November 2019. NITDA, as part of its due diligence process, commenced investigation over the alleged infractions of the provisions of the NDPR.

Soko Loans grants its customers uncollateralised loans and requires a loanee to download its mobile application on their phone and activate a direct debit in the company’s favour. The app gains access to the loanee’s phone contacts. 

According to one of the complainants, when he failed to meet up with his repayment obligations due to insufficient credit in his account on the date the direct debit was to take effect, the company unilaterally sent privacy invading messages to the complainant’s contacts. 

Investigation revealed that complainants’ contacts who were neither parties to the loan transaction nor consented to the processing of their data have confirmed the receipt of such messages. 

The Agency made strident efforts to get Soko Loan to change the unethical practice but to no avail.  After the Agency’s investigation team secured a lien order on one of the company’s accounts by which it could come up with privacy enhancing solutions for its business model, Soko Loan decided to rebrand and directs its customers to pay into its other business accounts. 

The Agency’s investigation further revealed that the company embeds trackers that share data with third parties inside its mobile application without providing users information about it or using the appropriate lawful basis.

NITDA has therefore found Soko Loan and its entities in violation of the following legal provisions: 

Use of non-conforming privacy notice, contrary to Article 2.5 and 3.1(7) of the NDPR;Insufficient lawful basis for processing personal data, contrary to Articles 2.2 and 2.3 of the NDPR;
Illegal data sharing without appropriate lawful basis, contrary to Article 2.2 of the NDPR;Unwillingness to cooperate with the Data Protection Authority, contrary to Article 3.1 (1) of Data Protection Implementation Framework; andNon-filing of NDPR Audit reports through a licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisation (DPCO), contrary to Article 4.1(7) of the NDPR.

In view of the foregoing and in consideration of its implication on the privacy of Nigerians and erosion of trust in the digital economy, NITDA hereby:

imposes a monetary sanction of Ten Million Naira (N10,000,000) on Soko Lending Company Limited.

directs that no further privacy invading messages be sent to any Nigerian until the company and its entities show full compliance with the NDPR.

directs the company to pay for the conduct of a Data Protection Impact Assessment by a NITDA appointed DPCO on its operation; and Placement on a mandatory Information Technology and Data Protection oversight for 9 months.

It may be noted that the criminal aspects of this investigation has been deposited with the Nigeria Police to determine if the executives of the company are liable to imprisonment for violating Section 17 of the NITDA Act, 2007. 

NITDA therefore uses this medium to remind all Nigerian businesses and data controllers of their obligation to engage NITDA-licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO) to guide them towards compliance with the data protection law. The Agency is poised to fully enforce the NDPR with the aim of sanitising the operating environment, instilling confidence in the digital economy and protecting the right to privacy of Nigerians.  

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is the apex regulator for Information Technology in Nigeria under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy. 

The Agency is empowered by Section 6(c) of the NITDA Act, 2007 to develop guidelines for electronic governance and monitor the use of electronic data interchange and other forms of electronic communication transactions in Nigeria. 

The Agency issued the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) as Nigeria’s first comprehensive framework for the protection of personal data. The NDPR provides the principles and framework for the protection and processing of personal data of Nigerians and residents.

16th August, 2021Abuja
NITDA announces the Commencement of the Application Process for the Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria Programme.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has announced the commencement of the Application Process for the Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria Programme (B2MC).

It may be recalled that early this year, NITDA signed a partnership arrangement with MassChallege, a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators. The partnership was aimed at stimulating economic vitality and job creation in Nigeria by catalyzing entrepreneurial activity and supporting entrepreneurs as they develop and execute on game-changing ideas, digital technologies, and discoveries.

The commencement of the application process followed a comprehensive stakeholder engagement with key players in the ecosystem. These include Government, Academia, Enterpreneurs, Angels and VCs, Corporate Organisations, Media, and Influencers.

The application is open to entrepreneurs who want to take their businesses to the next level. Early-stage and growth-stage startups from all over the country, working on innovative solutions from any industry are encouraged to apply. 

Successful applicants will participate in an intensive, 4-month program that encompasses both online and in-person portions where startups develop and implement bespoke project plans to further their localisation journeys.  They will also receive:

tailored mentoring and coaching offered by NITDA and other local mentors, local and global mentors of the MassChallenge network and the entrepreneurial ecosystem;tailored curriculum based on startups’ specific needs;
investment opportunities by facilitating connections to investors and a private demo-day; andAccess to the MassChallenge global network.

Speaking at the official launch of the application process, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director General/CEO, NITDA, said “a vibrant startup ecosystem is highly critical to the future of our country and it’s vital to finding solutions to our numerous challenges. 

Innovation is a prominent way of creating prosperity for all and lifting countries out of poverty. He further noted that “Considering this, NITDA and MassChallenge have continued to partner in this new initiative to catalyze and foster the growth and success of the country’s startup ecosystem in line with the vision of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria.”

 Also speaking at the event, Siobhan Dullea, CEO of MassChallenge, said “MassChallenge is excited to be working with NITDA to help entrepreneurs in Nigeria grow locally while having access to the MassChallenge global network. We look forward to working with NITDA to continue to support and grow the Nigerian innovation ecosystem.”

Interested applicants and those wishing to learn more about the programme are encouraged to visit the B2MC Nigeria website. Note that Applications for the B2MC Nigeria programme closes on the 24th September, 2021.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is a Federal Government Agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

NITDA was established in April 2001 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy as well as coordinate general IT development and regulation in the country.

Specifically, Section 6(a & c) of the Act mandates NITDA to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices, activities and systems in Nigeria; develop guidelines for electronic governance and monitor the use of electronic data interchange and other forms of electronic communication transactions as an alternative to paper-based methods in government, commerce, education, the private and public sectors, labour, and other fields, where the use of electronic communication may improve the exchange of data and information.

MassChallenge on the other hand is a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators. 

Headquartered in the United States with locations in Boston, Israel, Mexico, Rhode Island, Switzerland, and Texas, MassChallenge is committed to strengthening the global innovation ecosystem by supporting high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world. To date, more than 2,300 MassChallenge alumni have raised more than $5 billion in funding, generated more than $2.7 billion in revenue, and created more than 136,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at masschallenge.org

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