Safaricom moves to protect its customers’ privacy

Mpesa agent shops. Photo/Courtesy

Safaricom has announced that it will start hiding its customers’ full details when making payments via Lipa na Mpesa. The change will be effective at the end of June this year.

The move is in compliance with the law in Kenya-  the data protection law that was enacted in 2019 to protect user privacy. Banks operate in a similar manner.

Safaricom said only the first name and a few digits of the customer’s phone numbers shall be displayed while making payments, in a bid to curb the trading of personal information to fraudsters.

“At the end of June, phone numbers and full names of subscribers making transactions will no longer be relayed to partners,” Safaricom said In a statement.

“Only the first name will be passed along and the phone number of the subscriber making the transaction will be masked (obfuscated). For example, if a person named John Doe with a phone number +254(redacted) makes a payment the only data that will be passed along is [John, +2547XXXXX654].”

Presently, Safaricom customers using the Lipa na M-Pesa platform leave their numbers and names to the respective merchants owning the till numbers.

This has posed a high security risk as merchants are said to use the numbers to send unsolicited advertising through text messages, or even sold to third parties.

Recent disclosures show  that more than a fifth of Kenyan companies shared customers’ financial and personal information without consent.

According to a survey carried out by consultancy Ernst & Young (EY), 41%  of firms transferred client data to third-party service providers while more than 53 % of these companies or 21.7 % of firms did not seek the approval of their customers.

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