Privacy Implications of Coles Supermarket Bank Push

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Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong
Linda MottramAustralian Broadcasting Corporation


Almost a week ago it was reported that Coles Supermarket was considering a move into the banking sector in Australia. This morning Katina Michael spoke with Linda Mottram of ABC702 Sydney about the privacy implications such a move might instigate. Here's just some of what Michael had to say:

- supermarket chains in Australia have long had fly-buy loyalty card schemes which have not helped consumers but encroached their privacy

- the move by the supermarket chain is to link a whole host of value-added services such as banking, insurance, and credit schemes (what next? a move into the telecommunications, life insurance, and health insurance sectors?)

- one stop shops like this scenario present stickiness drivers where customers return back to the same stores because they perceive they will get discounts

- this is a standard customer relationship strategy

- consumers should resist exclusivity. Big business never ever buy from a single vendor, so why should we as shoppers? In fact big business go into multi-vendor relationships to minimise their risks

- the other thing we need to consider is how company ownership is dictated. E.g. Coles is owned by a larger conglomerate that owns a great number of other stores such as liquor, fast-food, and white good retail stores. Will this data be shared internally into the one organisation? and if so, what kinds of laws might they be breaking?

- this is all part of the big data movement to try and unravel how consumers think, and buy and act- it is behavioural monitoring and tracking

- if I know what you are thinking I can manipulate your purchasing habits to onsell you things you might not even need. You might indeed NOT be saving money but spending more money under these conditions

- our disposable income says a lot about us- whether we can afford high-end items, spend more, where we work, when we get paid, how often we spend (patterns of usage of money- big or small withdrawals, propensity for impulse at the check out if I just use plastic and not withdraw cash etc

- predictive analytics can tell us future patterns about individuals and we can pretty much guess if they get paid on Thursday they will shop that same night, or that weekend for things other than groceries

- imagine when pay cuts occur with respect to fractional appointments, or you are on maternity leave, or you've lost your job- all these details are transparent to the organisation

- this is in fact even more visibility that the Australian Tax Office has about you- more items appear on your bank account that are centralised sources with the potential for dataveillance and uberveillance

- who is tracking and monitoring your behaviour and why? what is in it for shoppers?

- if some shoppers believe that convenience is much better than the extra money or privacy they part with, then they need to re-evaluate their situation because that kind of thinking will come back to bite

- In the USA, Dr Katherine Albrecht began the CASPIAN consumer organisation against loyalty card schemes and 18,000 members have refused to "buy-in" to "fly-buy" like schemes. Even more intrusive is sticking tags onto products for further tracking. But CASPIAN did stop a number of schemes, and a large number of the RFID initiatives in supermarkets

- resistance is NOT futile

- supermarkets and retail chains react to shopper sentiment

- try resisting the urge to put another piece of plastic in your purse

- the other issue that will eventuate, are that companies will begin to conduct social network analysis on your outgoing and incoming banking and retail transactions.

- if we thought the NSA had a lot of data based on telecoms calls for relationships, banking is on a completely different level for individuals and families

Suggested Citation

Katina Michael and Linda Mottram. "Privacy Implications of Coles Supermarket Bank Push" 702 ABC Radio: Mornings with Linda Mottram Sep. 2013.