According to MasterCard, “you are what you buy.” This proclamation was part of a proposal submitted to advertising executives, pitching MasterCard’s desire to develop a means by which internet users can be linked directly to their purchasing behavior in the real world in order to hone the way consumers are targeted for ads.
MasterCard and Visa do not issue credit cards to consumers. Instead, they process electronic payments and, as a result, they are in possession of some of the largest databases of sales transactions in the world.
To date, Web advertisements are typically based upon the behavior an individual exhibits while online — browsing and searching — but that are not related to the person’s identity or their spending habits in the world beyond the Web.
Should MasterCard’s proposal be put into effect, detailed insights into the lives of consumers would be offered up to advertisers—information that they would not otherwise necessarily be able to obtain by other means.
“There is a lot of data out there, but there is not a lot of data based on actual purchase transactions,” said Susan Grossman, group head of media solutions at MasterCard Advisors, in an interview, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. “We are taking it a level deeper… it is a much more precise targeting mechanism.”
MasterCard claims that it does not collect cardholders’ names or other such contact information during the processing of electronic payment transactions. The company also claims that that it does not currently connect people’s Web-surfing activity with specific cardholder transaction information and data, or provide anyone’s individual consumer transaction data to outside companies.
However, MasterCard has shelved the proposal for the moment, due to restrictions on the ways in which financial-services companies are allowed to utilize customer data.
Visa is involved in a program that allows retailers to send text messages to consenting consumers who wish to receive real-time discounts that are generated as a result of their transactions.
For anyone not wishing to have his information included in MasterCard’s analysis, she can visit www.mastercard.us/privacy, navigate to the “Data Analytics Opt-Out” page and enter their credit card number.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “a Visa spokeswoman said the company provides consumers with ‘notice and choice for products that use their personal information.’”