Visa & Mastercard Looking into Linking Ad Targeting to Purchases

Two of the largest credit card networks Visa and MasterCard have been looking into ad targeting. Using everything they know about their customers and their customers data, they are investigating how to leverage these networks and data to target people online with ads.

Concerns have been made about the banking industry taking advantage of our data. Mobile banking usage in the US has increased 45 percent from Q4 of 2010 to present according to ComScore’s press release. 32.5 million people have accessed their mobile banking information.

More people are coming online, accessing data. This data is becoming more and more valuable.

A woman making a credit card paymentSince a majority of all transactions in the world flow through MasterCard and Visa’s networks it’s pretty safe to assume that everyone could be affected by this. Not to mention the 32.5 million people going online for mobile banking and 45 percent increase in the past year MasterCard and Visa’s plans, if implemented, would be to take transactions that you have placed in the past day or two and target ads to you online. If you purchase McDonalds, it will show ads for weight loss. If you were to go to the store and buy video games, it would put up other video games that other users have purchased in order to draw you in.

It’s the evolution of marketing at it’s best. They have millions of data points every second and now they can target those people with relevant items that they could buy.

Earlier this year MasterCard proposed an idea to link user data to information about actual purchase behaviors for ad targeting. “You are what you buy,” as MasterCard eloquently puts it in WSJ’s breakdown.

The technology isn’t there for Visa or MasterCard. MasterCard does not collect people’s personal identifiable information such as names and addresses when processing credit card transactions. This will make linking purchase behaviors and online behaviors up to a personal profile extremely hard and near impossible.

This data, though they have a lot of it, would take a lot of deep analysis and help of third-party companies to be able to extract this data, make sense of it, and then re-target to companies.

This gets me wondering if that is what Google is up to with Google Wallet and their introduction to an AdWords credit card for advertisers. Google would do very well in the banking space. Knowing this amount of information would allow them to target ads to everyone out there on a personal level.

With the introduction of Google+ now they don’t even have to check your Facebook profile. They can attribute credit card data to an individual user in their 50 + million users using Google+.

What if Google were to become a bank? How would that change our lives? How would that change the advertising world? Do you think it would change the way we advertise online if Google were to access all our credit data? Would we be able to block them or any other company such as Visa or MasterCard from pushing our data out to the highest bidder in hopes of making a few extra bucks per purchase?

MasterCard which confirms that their plans of doing this were shared with at least four different companies has said that it was “put aside” because of the legal restrictions that are out there right now with unidentifiable data. They were solely exploring these ideas back in April as “exploratory conversations” to make more money with the data that they collect.

In August, Ms. Grossman of MasterCard said the company was developing its own methodology, and the details were proprietary. She said the company doesn’t “focus on individual account level transactions” but rather “consumer segments.” But earlier this month MasterCard said it does not match individual Internet users to its purchase behavior. “Any matching that may have been discussed would have been on the part of the third-party company—not MasterCard,” a spokeswoman said.

Visa has started pitching this idea on a dumbed down scale. Pitching targeted demographics who love cats, different cat products. Of the demographic size, all we know is that they are targeting group buying behaviors in “areas”.

Credit card companies including Discover Financial Services’ Discover Card, Bank of America Corp., Capital One Financial Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. disclose in their privacy policies that they have the right to share personal information about people with outside companies for marketing purposes. They also say that they don’t use any of your information for creating ads or targeting their users. American Express has said that it uses data collected for internal research but does not pass along data to outside companies.

Sen Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va sought information from both Visa and Mastercard on how both of them collect and use their customers information after the original announcement from the Wall Street Journals article. Sen. Rockefeller wants details on how they will use the information based on credit card purchases.

“The privacy protections afforded to Americans in today’s commercial marketplace are already inadequate,” Mr. Rockefeller said in a release. “Plans to combine customers’ purchase data with other personal data, such as information from social network websites, credit bureaus, search engines, insurance claims, and even DNA databanks, for the purpose of targeted behavioral advertising are unprecedented and alarming.”

It’s hard to know what’s going on behind the scenes with each and every credit card company saying different things. What do you think about this? Do you think the credit card companies of the world should be allowed to use our data, share it with other companies, then re-market to us?

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