MasterCard has moved to soothe consumer privacy fears following a rash of headlines about its plans to sell card transaction data to large retailers and corporations.
The card scheme has been stung into action by a spate of negative publicity and media scare stories on the activities of its Advisors Media Solution unit, which repackages card transaction data for data mining purposes. The unit was officially established in January, but has come under the spotlight following a recent online presentation entitled "Leveraging MasterCard Data Insights to Reach Holiday Shoppers".
Slides from the presentation, given by Susan Grossman, SVP at Advisor Media Solutions, promote MasterCard's ability to track consumer spending patterns for use in targetted loyalty campaigns.
"What if you could know the biggest week for spend and then reach those shoppers who are twice as likely to spend leading up to that week and then create campaigns?" asked Grossman during the presentation.
Although the group is only active in the US, the UK press - both broadsheet and tabloid - has seized on the news, soliciting critical comments from privacy campaigners querying the programme's motives and legitimacy.
Speaking to the Mail Online, Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch, accused MasterCard of "treating details of our personal behaviour like their own property to be bundled up and sold on without any regard to what customers might want".
On the backfoot, MasterCard has wheeled out its global privacy and data protection officer JoAnn Stonier, to appear in a series of corporate videos emphasising the card scheme's commitment to protecting consumer privacy in the 'Big Data' age.
The key message, repeated three times by Stonier in the following two-minute clip, is that "MasterCard never collects, discloses or uses personally identifiable data, such as cardholder name and address, in its products."
MasterCard is not alone in repackaging consumer transaction history for onsale to corporate clients, with both Visa and American Express running similar programmes that are expected to become more pervasive and prevalent in the emerging information age.