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Barclays Bank To Sell Customer Data

If you’re a customer of Barclays Bank, you might want to reconsider your use of them for banking services.  The Guardian reports that the bank is

To start selling information about 13 million customers’ spending habits to other companies, and has admitted it could share the data with government departments and MPs.

The report goes on:

In letters being sent to customers, it is also outlining what details about them it holds and uses which, it said, “may include images of you or recordings of your voice”, as well as comments made in interactions with the bank on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Barclays said it may collect “location data derived from any mobile device details you have given us” – suggesting it will be able to pinpoint where in the world a customer is at a particular moment in time.

There is the usual “There is nothing sinister going on” placatory along with a claim that it would not be profiteering.

How is selling customer data not profiteering?  Why would an MP want to know what peoples’ finances are like in their constituency?  It’s difficult enough to get an MP to respond positively and helpfully to issues as it is without their trying to classify people by some scale.  Constituents are there to be served, not classified.

My local MP, indeed no MPs at all need to know the state of my finances.  The only departments that might have a claim to such information are the Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions, and they have to go through a clear process to get that information.  The usual claim of anonymisation conveniently forgetsomething mentioned in my post about EE and Ipsos Mori

The idea of “anonymising data” has been shown to be ineffective by Arvind Narayanan and Dr Vitaly Shmatikov of the University Of Texas at Austin, who also wrote an article called Myths And Fallacies Of “Personally Identifiable Information” (PDF file) that is well worth reading (thanks to Caspar Bowden for tweeting the link).  We also have the Golle and Partidge paper “Deanonymising Social Networks”.

Will Barclays publish a sample of their “anonymised” data for peer review? And continue to do so as reanonymisatio techniques improve?

I doubt it very much.

To hide behind privacy and marketing policies is cowardly.  If the law didn’t require letters to be sent out explaining changes in the privacy and marketing policies would Barclays have sent those letters out?

I doubt it very much.

Were I a Barclays Bank customer, I would move and let them know why.

Published inethicsprivacy