MasterCard selling card holder spending data to retailers

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 By

MasterCard

MasterCard has been revealed to be selling customer transaction data to retailers and marketers, which MasterCard customers might not have been aware of. Photo Credit: Phil Campbell/Flickr.com/CC-BY

It’s almost time for holiday shopping, but shoppers that are going to put the toys for their dear kiddies on their credit card may want to pause for a minute. MasterCard has started selling user data to marketing companies, though they assert the data that’s sold is only shopping habits not identities.

MasterCard customers can now enjoy ads tailored to their shopping habits

What a lot of people don’t know is that almost all facets of modern life, especially anything that takes place online, leaves a data trail. Anything and everything is tracked and logged to within an inch of its life and not only that, information about what people do, what they seem to like and so forth, are being sold.

Ever “like” a business or product on Facebook? Facebook sells that information to those companies for cold, hard, cash, so they can market to the people that clicked “like.”

Another company doing something similar, according to the Daily Mail, is MasterCard, which, like other credit card companies, tracks spending habits of MasterCard holders. They are also selling that information to retailers, who can market directly to those people.

Totally safe, they say

According to Wired magazine, the story was initially leaked by the Financial Times, the English equivalent of the Wall Street Journal with the distinctive salmon-colored paper. The information came from a podcast and presentation given by MasterCard, which was supposedly confidential but obviously isn’t anymore.

The program is called “MasterCard Audiences” and it is only offered in the United States, ostensibly because other countries wouldn’t allow this sort of thing without the consent of the person whose information is being sold. MasterCard asserts that no sensitive information, such as the name, address or otherwise of customers is sold to retailers.

That seems odd, since it seems almost impossible to market directly to someone without knowing who they are, where they live, etc.

The way it works, according to the Daily Mail, is that when a person uses their MasterCard, either online or in a store, MasterCard records certain data about that transaction. MasterCard distills it down to certain “segments,” or related data sets and sells it retailers, who then can market to the people in those data sets.

Not the only ones

MasterCard isn’t alone in doing this, according to CNBC, as Visa and American Express both likewise data mine transaction records to sell as marketing information to various entities. Trafficking in customer in user data is a huge industry; nearly everything one does online results in some company selling information about it to some other company that thinks they can entire people to buy their stuff.

Internet cookies do the same thing. They track a person’s behavior and search engines and websites traffic that information to retailers. However, not everyone likes the idea that information about them, no matter how innocuous or anonymous, is being sold without their permission or, since it is information about them, giving them a cut of the proceeds.

Sources

Daily Mail

Wired

CNBC

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