Telcos

Apparently, Safaricom Could Be Planning To Sell Your Location Data

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Safaricom
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Update: Safaricom denies plans to sell location data, issues clarification

As per a report by Business Daily Safaricom has advertised a tender for suppliers of a location tracking and intelligent platform to bid, in what the publication terms as a possible plan to monetise location data of its customers.

For context, a location tracking and intelligent platform helps build user profiles based on usage patterns as well as the location of the user. According to Safaricom’s bid notice, their need for an accurate location intelligent system is to foster the evolution of their service.

“Safaricom has enjoyed rapid growth since her inception largely driven by the innovation and delivery of new and sophisticated services riding on telephony and data services. Consequently, the evolution of the mobile network and devices has enabled Safaricom to gather information from the connected devices. At the core of any reliably connected device is an accurate location intelligence system, reads the bid.

What is Safaricom up to?

Safaricom can already pinpoint your location thanks to the constant pings your phone sends to cell towers throughout the day. As you move from one place to another, your connection moves from one cell tower to another – This is how they are able to prevent M-Pesa withdrawals from remote locations.

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The speculation is that with an intelligent system, the telco may be able to create a more accurate user profile of its subscribers. With a combination of airtime usage, M-Pesa usage and even other financial services such as loan apps, Safaricom can be able to tell your usage patterns and what kind of consumer you are, information that they can easily monetise.

With this in mind, if Safaricom chooses to monetise this data, subscribers may start getting targeted ads. For instance, you may get into a mall and get an SMS to visit a specific store in the mall that has a sale – similar to how you get those annoying Pizza Inn and supermarket texts but now with more accurate context.

But subscribers have an upper hand, kinda

However, there’s a silver lining to all this. Kenya recently passed the Data Protection Law which prohibits institutions from misusing user data and also gives users control over how their data is collected and used.

If Safaricom is to monetise location data or whatever other data without the risk of a lawsuit, they’d have to get consent from the individual subscriber to use that data in any way, including transferring it to a third-party. Subscribers also have the option of denying Safaricom permission to sell the data as well as request that the telco deletes all the data it has on them.

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All in all, it’s still too early to know exactly how Safaricom plans to use the location intelligence system. What we can be certain about is that the telco is working on making better use on the user data they collect.


This article has been updated to include more information on the allegations and a link to Safaricom’s response to the allegations

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