June 24, 2013

Barclays informed savings and checking account holders yesterday that it will start selling anonymized data on its customers to other companies, according to media reports. The bank said that it plans to compile transactional data on accounts into reports that can be sold to companies or government agencies starting in October of this year.

Customers were informed that changes in the terms and conditions of their account had changed to reflect the data-selling initiative. The bank also informed customers that ti would start tracking their mobile phone in October in order to detect possibly fraudulent charges made in other countries. Customers will be able to opt out of having their phone tracked, but will not be able to opt out of having their data collected and sold.

Barclays says that the data that it sells will be numerical and other entities will not be able to identify individual customers from it.

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Some companies have been criticized over selling anonymized data though, including MasterCard when it announced last year that it would sell data on the purchasing behavior of its U.S. customers to major advertisers. MasterCard said that other companies couldn’t identify their customers form the information it sold. But MasterCard did not publicly state how the system for compiling and anonymizing the data worked, leading to criticism from privacy advocates.

Barclays already collects and aggregates data for its own Bespoke Offers program that analyzes customer data to find relevant coupons to major retailers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Camhi is a graduate of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, where he focused on international reporting and interned at the Hindustan Times in Delhi, ...