Governments all over the world are breaking down the barriers to cashless economies and also taking steps to regulate cryptocurrency, but this is setting the scene for a head-on collision between online privacy and how we spend our money. Smartphones are spreading digital payments to the most remote locations.
Transaction data is also becoming more valuable, with mobile-only banks and digital wallets starving conventional banks of information on where and how their customers are spending their money.
As we move headfirst into this cashless future, little thought has been given to the implications of such a far-reaching trend on how we share information on ourselves. Online privacy concerns are as old as the internet, but while
they’re pervasive, data risks remain largely intangible to consumers.
This is clearly the case with spending data. As it stands, data on spending habits appear as far less sensitive (26% are wary of sharing it) than other forms of data, especially compared to personal or financial details (43%) and
location data (40%). Our data suggest that older consumers may realize the significance of their spending data compared to younger groups, who seem to be more concerned with the prospect of companies having access to their personal messages on chat apps or their social media activity history.
What this really tells us is that concerns around data sharing remain fairly rudimental, centering around first-party information relating to immediate personal details or whereabouts.
Less thought is given to data that provides richer information or context on other data (metadata). Even as far back as 2015, MIT researchers revealed that data on as little as three purchases was enough to identify more than 90% of people in their credit-card transaction dataset on 1.1 million people.
Perhaps spending data would not be as low on the consumer radar if they were more aware of how exposed it could be for their identity. The shift in the privacy paradigm from online identities to financial identities won’t
happen overnight, but it just so happens that a global social media company defending itself against privacy allegations, and a country criticized for its use of surveillance, are the frontrunners in attempting to implement this
cashless future. The developments of these digital currencies in 2020 will likely be seen as important milestones in the intersection
between payments and privacy.