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Want to buy a smartphone, but can’t afford it? In India, you can pay with your privacy

Lenders are turning to coercive “phones on loan” that shut down smartphones if customers fall behind on payments.

Datacultr uses a laundry list of techniques to force borrowers into paying. The app starts by sending audiovisual prompts in regional languages as reminders. If the user misses their first repayment, it forcefully changes the wallpaper on their cellphones. If Datacultr’s data scrape reveals a user to be a prolific selfie-taker, for instance, the app will send notifications every time the camera function is opened. If the user continues to default on the loan, frequently used messaging and social apps like Facebook or Instagram are progressively blocked, severely restricting the use of the device and ultimately shutting down all of the phone’s functionalities.


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