Friday, September 28, 2007

When you sign up for a credit card there is an awful lot of small print on the back. No one reads it all (alright I do, but I am an exception). Basically you trust the bank and the local legal system that there is not going to be anything horrendously unreasonable there. There are a couple of bits people do read though. Those are the bits with tick boxes next to them. You have to read these because they are asking for a decision. You either tick or you don’t; it is a call to action. One of the things they pretty much have to ask you is whether they and their partners can send you stuff through the post.

I generally tick the “don’t send” box. This is because what they send me is generally irrelevant junk and a real waste of trees. In a way this is surprising because my bank has a huge amount of information about me. I mentioned in a previous post that I felt there were limits around what could and should be done with this. I also said I would come back to the topic. The limits are really on a couple of things:

1) Who should use it.
2) What it should be used for.

My thoughts on this are as follows...

Who Should Use It?

Firstly only people I would feel comfortable with should use this data. Second only people who I as a person who uses the card have allowed to use it should have access to the data. Third only people who I can understand might have access to the data should have access to it.

Basically I do not want any unpleasant surprises. I do not want to find that the shopkeepers in the local stores have been getting together and gossiping about me having used my credit card to ensure they mean the same person.

Clearly my credit card provider can use it to provide the credit card. Moreover, if I have said they can send me special offers from partner companies then they can use it to select the offers. I am not sure that I am comfortable with them giving data to those specific companies in order to do this, so if they want to do that then it is best if they contact me to ask me first. I do not mind if they employ people to do the work on it, providing those people are bound to confidentiality. By extension I do not mind if they use companies to do the work providing the companies are similarly bound.

What should it be used for?

Firstly it should never be used for anything that will in any way harm me. Secondly it should only be used for things that will in some way benefit me. Thirdly it should probably not be used for anything that jars with my expectations. If it is something that makes me think "They are doing what???" when I hear it then someone is a bit close to the edge and it might be better to set my expectations, gauge my reactions and maybe even ask me first.

Clearly the data can be used for providing the credit card service. If I have signed up to receive offers, then I would feel it can be used to target those offers. I also feel that it can be used to improve the offerings of the credit card company. I feel that insights from the data could be used to improve offerings from partners of the credit card company. As I do not feel that the partners should have the actual data then I guess it follows that the actual data cannot be used (except as described below) to improve the offerings of the partner companies.

The exception to that is the credit card company (or their agents) can use the data to produce the insights. So the partner company is not using the data to improve it's offering, but in some sense the data is being used, indirectly, to do just that.

Where does all this lead?

I guess the next step is to ask what happens if a single company acts as an agent for multiple parties, taking data from each of them and then providing insight to each but not passing the data back to any of them. At first glance this seems reasonable providing the information providers/insight users are partners. It is probably best if they put the fact of the partnership somewhere where I can find out if I want to look it up, but I have not thought about this enough to be sure whether that is necessary. This is therefore, probably, a good point to finish for now. More on this topic later...

Rufus Evison
JustTheRants.BlogSpot.Com

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