f you thought it could not get worse with all the tracking and personalization on the Internet, then you have just been proven wrong. According to The Wall Street Journal and other sources, both Visa and MasterCard are planning to tie credit card purchases with personalized online advertisement. What does it mean? You recently bought a new BMW? Expect to see car insurance ads! You are a regular customer at Mc Donalds, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken? Expect weight loss ads to dominate your ad experience on the Internet. Paid your membership to that online dating site with your credit card? See mail order bride ads. Linking “real-world” purchases to online users is one of the holy grails of Internet marketing. Current advertising companies are already able to link online activity to advertisements. Linking offline purchases on the other hand would push behavioral targeting to another level. Both credit card companies interestingly enough confirmed that they are exploring ways of using transactional data for targeted online advertisements.
A Visa patent application in April for instance revealed plans to use personal details to create online profiles for ad targeting, with personal details taken from a variety of sources including “information from social network websites, information from credit bureaus, information from search engines, information about insurance claims, information from DNA databanks”. A Master Card spokesman stated that the company “doesn’t collect card-holders’ names or contact information in transactions it processes”, and that it therefor “doesn’t connect an individual’s Web-surfing activity to their specific cardholder transaction data or provide outside companies with individuals’ transaction data”. According to the Wall Street Journal article, both companies said that the plans are preliminary.
Master Card and Visa are not the only two credit card processing companies that use the billions of credit card transactions for marketing. Most companies disclose in their privacy policies that they may share personal information with third party companies. Master Card credit card holders can opt-opt of a variety of marketing and tracking related programs. This includes opting-out from the anonymization of personal information to perform data analyzes and from a unique web analytics cookie to avoid the aggregation and analysis of data collected. The best way to protect yourself? Pay with cash whenever possible.