We trust companies with our information every day. But many companies—even those that hold our most revealing information—are using it not just to provide the services we ask for, but to amp up their profits at the cost of our privacy.
That's why EFF has joined a campaign, led by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), to call on Mastercard to limit its data collection and stop selling cardholder information.
Mastercard is just one company that profits from the sale of personal data collected from the people who trust them with their information. As consumer advocates, we’re calling on the company to honor the trust that cardholders place in them by committing to stop selling their information.
Why make this ask of Mastercard? As U.S. PIRG explains in its report accompanying the campaign, the company’s position as a global payments technology company affords it "access to enormous amounts of information derived from the financial lives of millions, and its monetization strategies tell a broader story of the data economy that’s gone too far."
Knowing where you shop, just by itself, can reveal a lot about who you are. Mastercard takes this a step further, as U.S. PIRG reported, by analyzing the amount and frequency of transactions, plus the location, date, and time to create categories of cardholders and make inferences about what type of shopper you may be. In some cases, this means predicting who’s a “big spender” or which cardholders Mastercard thinks will be “high-value”—predictions used to target certain people and encourage them to spend more money.
These kinds of actions work against the trust that many people have for the company that issues their cards. In fact, the Bank for International Settlements found that people trust traditional financial institutions with their data more than big tech companies, government bodies, or fintech firms. When people get a card from Mastercard, they do not anticipate the ways the financial profile of their purchases will be remixed, repackaged, and used against them. Mastercard can and should do better. We call on the company to respect the trust and privacy of its cardholders and change its current data practices.