Data mining without the privacy baggage

Many a marketer has turned a wistful if not greedy eye upon bank databases. Therein lies untold potential to learn who buys what in order to tempt people with relevant offers.

The problem, of course, is privacy. Even if conscience permitted—conscience having proven, historically, to be remarkably plastic where profits are concerned—the United States Government frown upon banks that share customer data with outsiders.

But couldn’t there be a best of both worlds? A way that bank data could be used to serve clients and marketers without compromising the law and/or creeping anyone out?

When it comes to credit and debit card purchases, a company by the name of Cardlytics may have found a way. Imagine viewing your online bank statement and, right under a line showing a dining-out purchase, seeing a discreet, clickable line offering you a restaurant deal. You can click on it, ignore it or, if you prefer, opt out of such offers on your statement. If you choose to click on and accept the offer, you needn’t print a coupon. Just visit the restaurant and use your card. A rebate will appear on your statement.

The approach already legal muster and, properly presented, avoids the creep-out effect. Merchants provide offers, but the bank, not the merchant, posts them. The only information merchants receive is total redemptions—no names attached. Meanwhile, bank customers see a value-added offer facilitated by their bank (who, needless to say, happens to be allowed statement access) and not from merchants (who, needless to say, happen not to be).

Cardlytics offers a secure system that passes regulatory muster. Bank of America and sundry other, conservative financial institutions are already onboard.

The end result gives merchants an opportunity to target, banks an opportunity to add value, and consumers an opportunity to save on products and services they use. All within the law, and all in a way which shouldn’t creep out anyone but the most paranoid, die-hard conspiracy theorist.

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