CardBank, a loyalty card solution for your iPhone that respects your privacy
In today’s connected world where personal information is stored electronically, privacy is a paramount concern. Most of us, when we see the words “electronic” and “privacy,” immediately think of our personal computers. In the past couple years, with the advent of smart phones, our exposure is greatly increased beyond a single device. Consumers need to be aware of the types of information and the methods through which it can be collected.
To limit the scope of this discussion, we will focus on mobile device applications which are used in conjunction with the shopping experience. This class of utilities performs a variety of functions ranging from storing data, such as your shopper loyalty cards and coupons, to accessing product data, such as competitor prices, ingredient list, or manufacturer. While many consumers have found that these functions are very convenient in streamlining the hunter gather experience they don’t realize the applications also provide information to the retailer or a third party who will later sell it.
Anytime your mobile device connects to a server information is exchanged. In addition, each mobile device has a specific address associated with it and thus information that is transferred to or from it can be tracked. Similar to using a credit card, information such as where you have shopped (down to specific store locations) and what you have bought can be tracked. Furthermore, with the information you enter into your mobile device, such as scanning a product or entering a loyalty card number, the information on where and what you are most likely to buy can be tracked before you make a purchase or set foot in a store.
Gone are the days when shoppers would be asked to take a survey in the store (which one had the option of declining) and here are the days when information is collected without your consent. While some may not mind this kind of information gathering citing that it improves their shopping experience, many are quite disturbed when they discover a third party company is profiting off their information which they did not explicitly give consent to. Fortunately there are applications available that provide convenience while respecting your privacy.
Enter CardBank, an application for the iPhone that stores your loyalty card information that can be scanned or entered at point of sale systems. CardBank was designed with the user’s privacy in mind. To that end CardBank is a self sufficient program that stores all data on your phone and never needs to connect to a server to download a graphic or bar code. (Remember that what you download can be tracked just as easily as what information your mobile device is uploading.) CardBank’s minimal cost of $0.99 is the only source of revenue that supports its continued development.
The information provided here is only a brief outline of privacy issues with mobile devices. The number of smart phones, and developers for them, continues to increase every day. These developers are small third party companies looking to turn a profit. Thus, as a consumer who is about to download the next convenient “free” application to their mobile device, it is important to ask the question, “Is it really free?”