Pao Tang app developer defends collection of user data

Collecting data on app users is legitimate and important, but the way consent is gained should be improved, one of the brains behind the government-sponsored Pao Tang payment platform said Thursday.

The comments came after a public outcry prompted Pao Tang this week to remove the function that shared users’ data with public and private agencies.

“We are not selling these data,” Somkid Jiranuntarat, an adviser to the president of the Krung Thai Bank (KTB) and a board member of the Digital Government Development Agency told Thai Enquirer, adding that it was only used to improve services.

“We do not have a similar business model to Facebook or other platforms that are selling information to benefit from advertisement.”

Somkid oversaw the team that developed Thai Chana, the check-in and check-out application to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and several other large-scale technology programmes for the government, including Pao Tang.

Pao Tang is an electronic wallet application to support the government’s stimulus and relief schemes since last year. It now has more than 30 million users, making it the largest financial platform in the country.

KTB, the state-owned bank which co-owns and operates the application, on Tuesday canceled the three options for Pao Tang’s users to confirm their identity and allow the app to share their personal information with public agencies and private partners.

The decision followed a public uproar when people realized they needed to confirm their identity to be able to use the app, and that they could not withdraw their consent to data sharing afterward.

Some users do not want to share their personal information with any private entities even though that might improve their user experience and services.

Somkid maintained that involving non-government providers is good for users. “Future services in the app should not only be public services but include private services to provide maximum benefits,” he said.

KTB also cancelled all consent given prior to Tuesday’s function change.

Somkid said if all these data are just going to be stored somewhere then they are going to become useless.

Going forward, the bank should better communicate what they are going to be using these data for before asking for the consent again.

“For the application to evolve it must move beyond the services that KTB can offer, such as insurance services,” he said.

“Sharing this formation will allow other services to know the customers better and our job is to take care of these data and use what we gain from the consent and other services to come up with models to provide new services for the customers.”

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