This week in data – January 18th

Obama administration relaxes NSA data-sharing rules

The outgoing Obama administration has made waves this week by relaxing rules for the sharing of data gathered by the National Security Agency (NSA) among the US government’s 16 other intelligence agencies.  The new rules significantly relax long-standing limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws.

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information. Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

While the NSA has denied any significant expansion of power, privacy advocates and civil lawyers have labelled the move a gross erosion of the privacy of every American citizen.

Xero expands access to bank transaction feeds

Back in Australia, while debate continues over mandating open banking data APIs for consumers to access their own financial data, accounting software Xero has entered the fray stating that banks already provide feeds of transactional data to small businesses via accounting software like Xero and that demand for this information was high.

Xero has identified the integration of transaction data-feeds into accounting software as a major draw-card for SMB customers.

“We’ve now got 68 deposit-taking institutions in Australia, including all of the big four. By June we will have about 100,” Ben Styles, head of financial services strategic partnerships at Xero said.

“The reason that it’s accelerated so quickly is because of this idea that consumers and small businesses are really like a consumer, want direct access to the data in software at the time and place that they need it.”

Supermarkets urged to share data with customers

Speaking of the Productivity Commission into Data Availability, in a recent submission the Australian Food & Grocery Council have argued that consumers should be able to directly access their own shopping and loyalty data to help them shop for better deals. This would make approaching rival retailers easier for consumers, whilst the suppliers and delivery services could learn more about the consumer and strike deals directly with them.

This proposal to enforce the disclosure of loyalty and grocery shopping data to consumers would have radical implications for Woolworths and Wesfarmers, two of Australia’s largest and most comprehensive grocery loyalty programs, who like other loyalty businesses utilise this data for customer segmentation, personalization and cross-selling.

The enforceability and business impact of the PC’s proposed ‘Comprehensive Right’ for consumers to access behavior-generated-data continues to ignite industry-wide debate. Neither Woolworths or Coles have responded to the AFGC submission or the Productivity Commission which is expected to hand down their final report to the Government in March.

In other news…

MasterCard files patent for ‘customer size’ data sharing

A MasterCard patent application has surfaced this week prompting warnings over ‘size-discrimination’ in air travel. As the Economist reports, in 2015 MasterCard filed a patent for a data application which would see the credit card company analyze card-member data to estimate individual and household size & weight. How would they know your size – you may ask? Through the SKU/Product numbers associated with the sale of shoes and clothing. This data could be authorized for sharing with airlines (and other transportation providers, such as rail and bus companies) who could use it to assign appropriate seats to especially tall or heavy passengers.

While automatically receiving an isle or front row seat sounds like a dream for our tall friends, the patent application has prompted fears of data being used to potentially enact price discrimination for overweight passengers. MasterCard has not signalled any intention to enact the patent, so we’ll have to wait and see if this potential data application is ever realized.


This write-up on the age of second-party data and why more and business are turning to trusted second-party data partnerships to drive marketing ROI.

Catch you next week.

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