Damned if you deny

​It has become part of every day’s life for many smart phone users to install various apps on their gadgets to perform an array of tasks be it listening to music, texting and chatting, mobile money, gaming, investing (a disguised euphemism for betting), shopping, fitness, boosting phone’s speed (which never works actually), cleaning the phone (which more often than not ends up dirtifying the phone further) etcetera. There are those who will go as far as installing what are dubbed as spy apps to ostensibly assist in cracking their partners’ passwords or to establish who has been viewing their various online profiles otherwise known as stalking.
Most of these apps are available free of charge. You simply search them up on Google Play Store before installing them on your device.  That said, it is increasingly hard to understand some of these apps especially those that will demand to access your phone messages, storage, videos and stuff before a successful installation. An app will demand to not only access but to also manage your phone calls, access Whatsapp conversations, camera (both your phone camera and any other old unused Nikon or Kodak devices you might have in the house), your home theatre, micro wave, you TV remote and any other gadget in and outside your house. You will be asked to allow them access to your kitchen and the permission to view the surroundings from your balcony.

Not so long ago I had this experience with a mobile loan app. I was short of cash and I needed some amount to settle a few things here and there. Ten thousand would sort me out big time. I would not ask for cash from my friends-in-deed as they were also in need. Some actually had more need than myself.  It was that time of the month that your mind plays tricks on you conjuring up notions of a long forgotten account that might have some considerable amount of cash. You enter into a hypotonic trance as institutions like Bank of Baroda and Bank of India come to mind. You come from your conceptual imagery with the realization that the only account you ever opened and actually stopped using long ago is the one you used in your time as a student and you used to sweep it clean any time there was an accidental credit entry which was not very often.

Installing the app.

It would come as a no brainer to download this particular app that keeps popping up during my browsing forays. The app taunts itself as the most downloaded mobile money app in the country. It prides itself as having been approved and recommended by Central Bank and World Bank and Shylocks and that the mainstream banks  have lost their collective cool for losing customers to the app in droves.

When it came to installation, the app asked to access among others my messages, location, and to manage my calls. I allowed it access to all these because I needed money pronto. Then came the part to apply for the loan and I had to answer another set of questions including how I had come to learn about the app and how I intended to utilize the funds to which I answered “to add business stocks”.

I run no business but I thought that that answer would sound prudent therefore maximizing significantly the amount of money I would  possibly qualify for. It asked how many years I have been in business to which I answered “five” to appear more experienced in business. Remember I had earlier allowed the app access to virtually every aspect of my privacy including my bedroom. It was not lost on me that the loan app could be set in a way that it can gather information about the places you hang around, the people you talk to frequently, whether or not there are photos in your phone depicting you and colleagues around a chafuad table. This would all be in a bid to establish how you would spend the funds once a credit facility is advanced to you. It might also listen to your phone calls and read your messages to ascertain whether your phone calls are largely predominated by conversations about money-borrowing from friends and family or whether the people who call and text you regularly do so trying to demand money owed to them from 2010.

If you reply with ‘Deny’ to any of the requests, the app clicks it tongue violently in a juvenile defiance as it goes into an auto destroy mode with anger clearly manifest as it fails to comprehend why you are such a stubborn snob who cannot allow simple requests to access stuff in your phone.

I went as far as allowing it to read my calendar events to be assured that I don’t have a booze party planned in the near future where I might end up spending their money instead of putting it into good use like ‘adding stock to fast moving goods’. The app asked whether I had any other form of income apart from business. I answered that I was employed part time. I would definitely score high for having multiple sources of income. The app would rate me with a good credit score with minimal chances of defaulting on their loan.

At the end, after answering question after question of what the app said was important for the loan appraisal, it came out that I would qualify for kes 1,000. One thao! To put into perspective, that’s is 10 packets of government subsided unga and 200mb data to enable me to brag online.

I would have been paid more had it been an online Paid Survey. I felt inadequate. I almost cried ‘sina nguvu sina uwezo, mimi ni mnyonge’. After all the permissions I had granted the damned app stripping all my dignity; permissions to access every feature in my phone, after all the clever answers I had given to the avalanche of questions thrown my way,  I was resisting the strong compulsion to call the customer service number and throw in a few expletives. Whom did they think they were? They ought to know people! I wanted to fully understand how their appraisal had settled on me qualifying for a K. What had the app seen in my messages? Or is it my photos?