Do you ever read the Terms of Use, Privacy & Cookies Policies on websites you visit or software apps that you download? Would you happen to know how many apps you have installed that did not have any Policies on the platform? In the event you read through these legal documents, are there any policies that you did not agree with in part or entirely? Finally, have you ever been in a position where you clearly did not agree with the Legal Policies but you still give your consent because you really needed to use that service, and you not having agreed to locks you out of the service?

Let’s go down this rabbit hole a little further and talk about that time you installed an app but were left a little disconcerted about the details you were being asked for. Did you, despite your confusion, go ahead to fill your first name, surname, email address, telephone number among other fields that felt a little too much? All these you do even before you use the app. Then once you gained access you realised that the app was not giving you the desired service or information you require, so you deleted it to find a better app or to free up space on your device.

The thing you might not know is that, when you uninstall an app, it is only the app on your device that you deleted but not the information that you provided. The app still retained your details or data and continues to use or distribute it to third parties as declared in the many pages of their legal policies that you did not read through.

I’ll share an example of a friend’s experience with a local app called MyDawa. The app promotes itself as Kenya’s most trusted online pharmacy for affordable and genuine medicine. It is used by its users to order for over the counter medicines and supplements, which get delivered right to their doorsteps. My friend recently installed the app and discovered something interesting. In the installation process, they asked for a number of personal details and for them to state whether they were 18 years and over. After using the app for some time, they were asked to add information on their dependents.

To cut the story short, my friend uninstalled the app to free up space on their device but a month later, they began receiving promotional messages about various products such as diapers, credit facilities, insurance among others. Considering my friend belongs in the legal fraternity, it was only natural that they reverted to the website to seek out their Privacy policy but found that it was not readily available on the platform. They then went further ahead to request it from the MyDawa team and they were shocked to find out that there was a statement giving the platform liberties to share my data with 3rd parties.

It’s easy to connect the dots if you’re really looking for something, once my friend shared their family details, the data showed that one of them was still of diaper wearing age. Clearly, the information was sold to manufacturers of diapers along with insurance and financial solutions firms. It’s honestly rather unfortunate because once my friend shared the story I lost all trust in a brand I was yet to interact with. Such a scenario does more damage rather than good to a brand.

 I attended a Lean Data Practices (LDP) Capacity Workshop hosted by TESPOK and Mozilla where I learned that LDP is about promoting good data handling practises that boost good corporate values and trust among its staff and customers. LDP’s mantra is simple, once you have finished using the data you have collected, delete it. It also advocates that Legal policies be made available in a language that’s simple to understand to the user. and accessible. Do not put out a multi-paged document filled with jargon designed to tire and confuse the user.

You may think that Lean Data Practise is only for Governments (read Huduma Namba) and Corporates but it’s also for the individual such as you & I. We have multiple emails that we keep in our inboxes, both read and unread, that we truly don’t need. We have subscribed to websites, blogs, online services, newsletters, done surveys that have over the years collected our data and keep pushing content to us that we honestly do not need.

Additional data in cyberspace simply means more risk to your online identity. It’s time to declutter Data: don’t keep it if you are not using it.