OCBC Digital ‘app policing’–too Orwellian or a necessary evil?

Some users will be able to work around this issue for the time being.

by Aaron Koh

OCBC Bank account holders who frequently use the Douyin app on their Android devices might be in for a surprise.

Several users have reported an inability to access the bank’s mobile digital app, with some even facing issues logging into their Internet Banking on the same device.

A Reddit thread where a user narrated his father’s digital misadventure caught our eye: the OCBC Digital app flashed a warning about the Douyin app. The allegation? The Douyin app was suspected of being downloaded far from the safe rooms of the Google App Store or Huawei AppGallery, leading to an immediate red light stop from using the bank’s app.

But here’s the twist: Douyin isn’t the lone outlaw on OCBC Digital App’s unwanted list. Venture further into OCBC’s Facebook Page and you’ll find users highlighting that other apps, even those donned with the badge of ‘official app store download’ from Google App Store or Huawei AppGallery, like Microsoft Authenticator, LG Thinq, and CCleaner, facing the same scrutiny. 

OCBC’s advice to its bewildered clientele? A straightforward, albeit tedious, uninstall and reinstall from the official Google App Store or Huawei AppGallery.

Dodging OCBC’s app policing with the ‘2nd Space’ shuffle

Digital denizens, ever resourceful, have found a way around OCBC’s app policing. Users of Xiaomi/Poco devices have discovered a nifty trick: the ‘2nd Space’. By installing the OCBC Digital App in this secluded digital alcove, away from the so-called ‘bad apps’ in the main arena, they’ve managed to sidestep the bank’s restrictions. 

For the uninitiated, ‘2nd Space’ is like a hidden room in some Android devices, keeping apps away from the prying eyes of the main interface.

This workaround could be a godsend, especially for those who rely on corporate apps sourced from APKs. It’s a digital dance, a step around the bank’s stringent measures.

This stringent measure has undoubtedly ruffled feathers, but what’s prompting OCBC’s sudden vigilance? 

It appears to be a reactionary measure. In late 2021, a high-profile phishing scam linked to OCBC Bank account holders made headlines, with victims losing millions. To combat this, OCBC has implemented features to identify potentially harmful apps based on several criteria: the app’s source of download, its risk settings, and whether it possesses permissions that might allow remote access by potential scammers.

Yet, there are exceptions to this rule. The Singapore Pools Android App, exclusively available from the Singapore Pools website, has received the green light from OCBC. It’s been whitelisted and deemed safe to use with the bank’s mobile app. 

The overarching sentiment? While OCBC’s intent to shield its users from potential threats is commendable, the approach has raised eyebrows. In its quest to be the guardian at the gate, the bank’s digital app risks overstepping by deciding what users can or cannot house on their phones. A more balanced approach is to alert users of potential threats rather than enforcing outright prohibitions.

Negative buzz = ‘Uno Reverse’?

Yet, with the negative buzz around this ‘app policing’ echoing across media and social channels, will OCBC do an ‘Uno Reverse’? Probably not, given that the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s endorsement of such security measures might come at the cost of some user inconvenience. However, it’s a price to pay for maintaining confidence in digital banking.

Whispers in the digital alleyways suggest that OUB has also unfurled its ‘app policing’ banner, and if the grapevine is to believe, other Singaporean banks might soon join the fray. 

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