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Your Take: Banks Selling Your Shopping Data

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It was only a matter of time before banks started selling your shopping data.

When the recent financial consumer laws took the bite out of a lot of the fees banks charged, it was clear that they needed to find a replacement for all that revenue. Stockholders used to making billions aren’t content to make hundreds of millions, they want that revenue replaced. If you can’t charge someone $30 for bouncing a check, whether set by laws or by the competitive landscape, you have to replace it with something so you hit your revenue figures.

Selling data is and has always been a part of many company’s business models. The only difference is that banks and credit card companies have a lot of data. Years ago, they were using where you shopped to do a lot of things (this video from Good Morning America is from two years ago). When you’re online, companies are changing their offers based on where you’ve been surfing. Now, banks will be able to generate some more money by selling important shopping behavior.

I am not bothered by this if I can opt out of these various offers. While I value my privacy, I don’t think knowing where I shop and building a profile is an invasion of privacy (banks will probably let people opt out, if they know what’s good for them).

How do you feel about this?

{ 23 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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23 Responses to “Your Take: Banks Selling Your Shopping Data”

  1. No Debt MBA says:

    I’d love to have all of my data stay truly private, but it’s unrealistic so I just try to pretend like none of it is happening and go about my business.

  2. Shirley says:

    While I don’t have a problem with banks or advertisers knowing where I shop, I do believe there should be an option to opt out.

    That should be an individual choice and it should NOT be hidden six paragraphs down in fine print in a privacy notice.

  3. daenyll says:

    I’m not happy, but total privacy in this world is unrealistic. I would, however, like to see a clear and easily apparent opt out available.

    • skylog says:

      this seems like the best policy to me as well. given life today and where it is heading, total privacy is unrealistic and dead. perhaps some can achieve that goal, but it is a difficult option for most. a clear and easy opt out should be the least they can do.

  4. David M says:

    The story says the following:

    Based on that data, retailers are offering targeted discounts via the banks through text messages, email and online bank statements.

    The banks don’t actually hand over your data to retailers. Instead, retailers describe what type of customer they’d like to target and the bank then sends the deal to customers who fit the profile. When the customer cashes in on the deal, the bank gets paid a commission.

    Also, about 3 weeks ago I heard about this on NPR – the company that I heard about – it was OPT in even better than OPT out.

    • Shirley says:

      The Network Advertising Initiative (Opt Out)said its opt-out site is intended to allow consumers to opt out of advertising, not the data-collection it says is needed.

      At the site, consumers can check an opt-out box, which produces a message that says: “You have opted out of this network.” For customers who opt out, NAI and companies like Yahoo and Microsoft say these cookies are collecting data only to make sure advertising on websites works properly — not to target ads.

  5. mannymacho says:

    Hey, at least it keeps the fees down…

  6. Glenn Lasher says:

    I have truly mixed feelings on this.

    Personally, I have left a pretty wide trail across the Internet over the course of the last 20 years, between posting on Usenet, posting comments on blogs and forums, playing around in social networks, etc., but the key is that all of this information has been given to the ‘net voluntarily.

    I don’t mind giving information. I don’t mind giving my opinion. The difference here is that the information is not given by me; it is taken by the banks. For me personally, this is purely academic, but I know people who keep a very tight lid on what they do. Some of them have very good reasons, but even if they didn’t, it should be their right to expect their bank to behave in a respectful manner, and that means not blabbing about what they do.

    Now, I’m not likely to get too worked up over it. Save for a few key areas of my life, I live pretty much in the open. Even my youthful activism (some may call them indiscretions) are out there for whoever wants to know.

    Honestly, I don’t really care if you know that I recently bought an XLR cable from Drome Sound, a used 19″ monitor from Salvation Army or all of the songs in Billboard’s top 20 last week from Amazon. These facts bolster the fact that I work as a DJ in my off hours, a fact that I advertise and that should therefore surprise nobody.

    On the other hand, I would be upset if knowledge of any medical supplies I bought got out, or if anyone found out what might have been delivered in a plain brown wrapper. That’s nobody’s business.

    Additionally, I am mildly concerned that what one does today may be dimly viewed tomorrow. Although our government seems stable for all intents and purposes, were it to collapse and be replaced by a malevolent one, the perfectly legal things I have said and done up to this point may well come back to haunt, and that would suck. I don’t consider this a great risk, but it does at least deserve a little thought.

    • NateUVM says:

      Glenn, I agree with a lot of what you have said. Your last one is certainly a great perspective to consider, even in the abstract.

      However, I must take exception with one thing you say… This information is not “taken” by the banks. We hand it over freely when we decide to use one of their products. The choice is ours.

      • Glenn Lasher says:

        You are correct. Let me refine my point. It is given to them for a particular purpose; the purpose to which they are putting it differs from that purpose which was represented to us when we agreed to it.

      • Jason says:

        I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as that. We don’t hand it over freely as in we are getting something in return specifically for our personal information. We are required to give banks our ssn, birthdate and next of kin in order to deposit our money there, which they use to generate profits through lending and investments. Unless you want to be a contrarian and cause yourself a lot of unnecessary legwork, you must have a bank account for direct deposit, online transactions (bill pay), etc. In the past we were actually paid for doing this in the form of account interest, in which case, I would be more inclined to say the banks were “giving” us something in return for using our personal information for their profit. With changes to debit card transaction fees, the banks are now again charging account fees, but without paying us interest, so we are becoming pure point of sale customers for these entities, and unless specifically asked “hey, would you mind if I sold your personal specifics for a profit while giving you no specific benefit for it?”, I don’t see why it should be such a given.

        The government (in all it’s forms) also has all of our personal information, should Uncle Sam be able to market us out for the privilege of living here? Might be a creative answer to the debt crisis…

    • skylog says:

      great closing point. i can honestly say that i had never thought about this previously. while i agree with you that the risk may be small, but it is certainly something to think about.

  7. govenar says:

    I’m not very concerned about this. A tiny concern is like Glenn said above, that maybe the government could use the info to arrest people (or insurance companies could use it to decide not to pay you for a claim if they saw you buying cigarettes or something).

  8. It’s creepy, being watched all the time. Or at least that’s what it feels like. You would think your bank would be private…

    • Shirley says:

      At one time I scoffed at the idea that ‘Big Brother is watching you’. Now… hmmm… makes one wonder, doesn’t it? And I agree with you that it feels creepy.

  9. John says:

    Privacy is my right. All information about me should be owned and controlled by me. Banks have no right to sell information about me. If you do not want banks selling me all the information about what amounts you deposit and withdraw and on what dates, you cannot seriously think that by my using a bank’s credit card the bank should be allowed to sell information about my spending. Also remember that businesses are selling such vital information for pennies.

  10. Shirley says:

    At issue are “third-party cookies” placed in a user’s browser by advertising data companies. The cookies are invisible to users and are embedded in their browser when they visit any of hundreds of thousands of unrelated websites.

    Those cookies then log the user’s FUTURE travels across the Web.

    Several online advertising companies have revised their privacy policies to acknowledge that they may continue to collect data EVEN AFTER consumers opt out at an advertising industry website, or enable “Do Not Track” features in the newest versions of Mozilla’s Firefox browser or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9.

  11. freeby50 says:

    I’m not worried about the privacy issue personally. I just don’t see any reason to think a bank or merchant would do anything evil with data about your shopping habits. If you don’t trust the bank then why do you let them keep all your money? ;)

    Targeted advertising is a good thing in my opinion. Companies are going to advertise and try to sell us stuff. I’d rather they try and sell me stuff I might actually want than junk I would never want or need.

  12. Scott says:

    My bank has zero useful information about me. It knows how much I pay in rent and that I have auto, and renters’ insurance. It also knows I pay my electric and sewer/water bill and that I have two credit cards.

    Even the credit card companies have limited information – they know that I occasionally eat out, shop at Amazon and Fred Meyer, but they really don’t know what I buy.

    Jim, you might know more about me than they do. Should I be worried?

  13. MoneyNing says:

    I’m not surprised. I just wished there was a central location, (similar to a place to get free credit reports) where we can opt out or set our privacy settings instead of getting a letter from every financial institution telling us how to check all the boxes to disallow them to profit from our usage patterns.

  14. Mike says:

    I get gift cards for my shopping information.

  15. I would strongly prefer that banks, marketers, advertisers, and product companies know exactly what I’m buying. If they have this information, they will be able to come up with far better offers for me to change brands and I would be more likely to acquire my ‘stuff’ at lower overall pricing – not to mention the amount of paper waste that could be eliminated with unwanted offers.

    The wife and I shop at Kroger where Dunnhumby USA calibrates their loyalty coupon offers. Unsurprisingly, we receive a set of coupons for EXACTLY what we buy most frequently. Outside of Charmin, I have little brand loyalty, so offers for competing products are welcome and the lowest price wins. This smaller-scale process saves us money at the cost of giving up the answer to: What’s in your shopping cart?

    As for any purchases that you may be embarrassed about or have other legitimate sensitivities toward, there are plenty of options available. Just go off-the-money-grid by using cash or cash to buy pre-paid plastic. It’s simple and many a politician could have learned this lesson (oh, and checks don’t count as Jerry Springer, former Cincinnati mayor and subsequent TV personality, could tell you).

    Also, prescriptions and other medical information (except when applying for life/health insurance) are protected under federal law, so no worries if you need to get a prescription filled for your heart condition, herpes, or whatever ails you.


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