Mobilink and Warid top in terms of user data privacy policies and protection, a study

By Muneeb Ahmad on
December 30, 2016
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A study of major telecommunication companies has shown lack of consistency concerning the companies’ policies on user privacy and data protection. Of the five major telecom names of Pakistan that were studied, Mobilink and Warid made it to the top followed by Ufone, while Telenor and Zong sinked below.

The study titled, Telecoms Privacy and Data Protection Policies in Pakistan, was just released by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF). The study evaluated the privacy policies currently in use by the major cellular telecommunications companies operating in Pakistan, that are Mobilink, Telenor Pakistan, Ufone, Warid and Zong.

The report ranked these companies according to different parameters that count to the user’s privacy, mainly the language of policies, ease of understandability and accessibility, clarity concerning what data is collected, how it is stored, the purpose of storing it and under what circumstances is it shared with third parties. As per the rankings, Mobilink and Warid fared better than all others. Ufone lied somewhere in the middle, as compared to the other telcos. The report found that Telenor and Zong didn’t have appreciable state of affairs concerning the user privacy.

The study also unearthed inconsistencies regarding the public availability of the privacy policies, as well as regarding the apparent lack of proper updates and oversight by the companies being studied. For lack of regular attention, many structural and formatting errors were spotted in the state of customers’ data privacy. None of the found privacy policies indicated an awareness of the passage of the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.

Nighat Dad, the Founder and Executive Director of DRF, quoted,

“It is the right of customers to know what their rights not just in relation to the state, but also in relation to private companies, service providers and social media platforms.”

Although companies provided that the customers could contact the companies in reference to any possible privacy breaches, disparities were spotted. On a good note, for the most part the reviewed companies have had provided the privacy policies compiled at one location. For a single exception, Zong, however, hadn’t clearly had a defined or easy to find privacy policy at all. The closest to a privacy policy that it could get was, a section of the company’s Code of Commercial Conduct section, which listed the laws of Pakistan that Zong and its parent, China Mobile Pakistan, must adhere to.

Digital Rights Foundation is a research and advocacy based NGO that works around issues of surveillance, privacy, internet governance and online harassment.

For the approximately 135 million cellular services subscribers to in Pakistan out of a total population of about 192 million, strong data privacy legislation is pivotal. it is important that mobile telecommunications companies operating in the country dedicate themselves to proactively protecting their customers’ privacy, and to provide detailed and publicly available privacy policies that reflect this commitment.

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