Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Privacy: Visa, Mastercard to fight fraud by acquiring your fingerprints, voiceprints, facial features and tracking your cell phone

In Europe, where governments and citizens take a dimmer view of ever-escalating corporate intrusions on your personal privacy, credit cards have been smartened with embedded chips to reduce fraud.
     Here in the U.S., the credit card industry and merchants won't spend the money to upgrade cards and point-of-sale systems, which has resulted in wave after wave of data breaches affecting millions of credit (and debit) card holders. Now that they're finally addressing the problem, it is via methods that encroach further on your privacy.
     Visa wants to put a app on your smart phone that tracks you every second of your life, whether you're shopping or not, and CNET's editor-at-large, Tim Stevens, thinks that's fine. Here is his rationalization:
"I'm a little more concerned about having my credit card stolen than in Visa knowing where I am," he said. "When you think about it, whenever you use your Visa card they know exactly where you are and exactly when you were there."
     We think this attitude is appalling. When VISA and MasterCard refused to do for Americans what they did for Europeans, banks, stores and consumers paid the price in higher costs, higher prices, defensive credit monitoring and millions of hours of paperwork by Americans who surely had better things to do than pour over statements to separate fraudulent purchases from those they actually made.
     Now that the credit card industry has finally decided to do something, that something seems to be forcing consumers to make a rigged choice of facing an increasing risk of fraud-diminished credit ratings or the obliteration of more of their privacy.
     Here are some questions that CNET's Tim Stevens didn't ask and seemed to cavalierly dismiss, along with the spectacularly unconcerned CBS This Morning cohost, Gayle King:
  • How long will this tracking information be retained?
  • What if a divorce lawyer subpoenas it?
  • What if the government uses it as a weapon against journalists to see who's been exposing misconduct?
  • How long will it be before credit card companies demand your voiceprints, finger prints, facial features and insist that you install a tracking app on your cell phone as a condition for issuing you a credit card instead of cleaning up their act in ways that don't obliterate what's left of your privacy?
     Most large corporations already force you to relinquish the right to sue them — no matter how outrageous their behavior — in user agreements that legally compel you to settle disagreements via binding arbitration adjudicated by organizations they hire.
     Will this also exempt them from liability when their dossiers on your constant whereabouts, your face, your fingerprints and your voice inevitably fall into the hands of hackers, stalkers, or terrorists or combinations thereof?
     We wonder what Corporate America will think of next, but we're afraid to ask.

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