Folk Fest, Shohoz and DMoney: The love triangle no one asked for

In a city like Dhaka where we don’t really have any place to hang out apart from going to restaurants and cafes, the Dhaka International Folk Fest is a breath of fresh air that everyone eagerly waits for.

Performers from home and abroad come together for three days of music from all over the world. Unfortunately, an online controversy preceded this year’s fest. The controversy is bringing light to issues around data privacy, data sharing and the most dangerous habit of everyone in the internet– accepting terms and conditions without reading them.

The organisations at the heart of the issue is Shohoz and Dmoney. Shohoz is a service provider app which is in charge of registration and distribution of tickets for Dhaka international Folk Fest. In order to register for the Folk Fest, registrants were required to submit their NID/Passport details to complete the registration procedure. This has become practice in some larger events and in previous versions of the event. In order to complete registration, one also had to accept the terms and conditions which included general rules to maintain security, regulate behavior within the premises and other important details.

However, a clause was also included in which the registered individual consents to share personal information with the digital payment partner of the event, which is D Money Bangladesh Limited.

To me, an addition of such a clause is dubious and lacks clarity. For me, consenting to a clause like this translates to a violation of my privacy. Many festival goers did not read the fine print. This feels like an unnecessary clause for a music festival; I feel that the organizers unfairly tried to re-purpose the data that I was giving to them for registration.

This clause was highlighted by some concerned festival goers on Facebook a day before the event. To their understandable surprise, some people who registered at the folk fest received a confirmation email from D Money stating that an account has been opened under their name. The email also stated that they will be notified shortly after for a verification of their NID and Bank information.

When this came to light, many registrants, including I, felt appalled at Shohoz and the organizers of Dhaka International Folk Fest for mishandling the information. The Dhaka International Folk Fest has been happening since 2011, and I have come to associate it with culture and winter festivities. Such incidents put a shadow on that association, and may sour impressions on the international stage that the festival is.

To extrapolate from the email, not only did Shohoz and DIFF share phone numbers and email addresses of the people who registered for the event, but they also shared sensitive information like NID and Passport copies. After these facts made rounds on social media, the organizers of DIFF, Shohoz and the D Money issued the following statement:

I find this explanation unsatisfactory and feel that this defense was poorly put together. I do not think that a company that handles finances (is therefore considered credible) would make such an ‘accident’. Confirmation emails to people who did not knowingly sign up for their services indicate that Shohoz may have shared the information for this very purpose. Otherwise, an accident indicates a case of poor management that is not expected from such organisations.

I hope that this makes us talk about data privacy more seriously. Mismanaging or being careless about user data is wrong– it’s wrong when Zuckerberg does it, it’s wrong when anyone else does it. I hope we carry forward lessons from this and actually read terms and conditions before accepting them. Unfortunately, our very personal data can be easily taken from us and used to benefit others.

I hope it’s not too much to ask for when I request all of you to, at least, skim if not read every detail before installing an app next time. Because we need to be vigilant that our privacy is not being violated.

The published article is an Op-Ed piece by the author and Op-Ed articles may or may not reflect the stance of the publication.