For better or worse, the type of smart device you use can identify you in ways you may not expect. First, a report by London-based Privacy International highlighted the changes within the financial services industry:
"Financial services are changing, with technology being a key driver. It is affecting the nature of financial services from credit and lending through to insurance and even the future of money itself. The field known as “fintech” is where the attention and investment is flowing. Within it, new sources of data are being used by existing institutions and new entrants. They are using new forms of data analysis. These changes are significant to this sector and the lives of the people it serves. We are seeing dramatic changes in the ways that financial products make decisions. The nature of the decision-making is changing, transforming the products in the market and impacting on end results and bottom lines. However, this also means that treatment of individuals will change. This changing terrain of finance has implications for human rights, privacy and identity... Data that people would consider as having nothing to do with the financial sphere, such as their text-messages, is being used at an increasing rate by the financial sector... Yet protections are weak or absent... It is essential that these innovations are subject to scrutiny... Fintech covers a broad array of sectors and technologies. A non-exhaustive list includes:
- Alternative credit scoring (new data sources for credit scoring)
- Payments (new ways of paying for goods and services that often have implications for the data generated)
- Insurtech (the use of technology in the insurance sector)
- Regtech (the use of technology to meet regulatory requirements)."
"Similarly, a breadth of technologies are used in the sector, including: Artificial Intelligence; Blockchain; the Internet of Things; Telematics and connected cars..."
While the study focused upon India and Kenya, it has implications for consumers worldwide. More observations and concerns:
"Social media is another source of data for companies in the fintech space. However, decisions are made not on just on the content of posts, but rather social media is being used in other ways: to authenticate customers via facial recognition, for instance... blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, is still best known for cryptocurrencies like BitCoin. However, the technology is being used more broadly, such as the World Bank-backed initiative in Kenya for blockchain-backed bonds10. Yet it is also used in other fields, like the push in digital identities11. A controversial example of this was a very small-scale scheme in the UK to pay benefits using blockchain technology, via an app developed by the fintech GovCoin12 (since renamed DISC). The trial raised concerns, with the BBC reporting a former member of the Government Digital Service describing this as "a potentially efficient way for Department of Work and Pensions to restrict, audit and control exactly what each benefits payment is actually spent on, without the government being perceived as a big brother13..."
Many consumers know that you can buy a wide variety of internet-connected devices for your home. That includes both devices you'd expect (e.g., televisions, printers, smart speakers and assistants, security systems, door locks and cameras, utility meters, hot water heaters, thermostats, refrigerators, robotic vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers) and devices you might not expect (e.g., sex toys, smart watches for children, mouse traps, wine bottles, crock pots, toy dolls, and trash/recycle bins). Add your car or truck to the list:
"With an increasing number of sensors being built into cars, they are increasingly “connected” and communicating with actors including manufacturers, insurers and other vehicles15. Insurers are making use of this data to make decisions about the pricing of insurance, looking for features like sharp acceleration and braking and time of day16. This raises privacy concerns: movements can be tracked, and much about the driver’s life derived from their car use patterns..."
And, there are hidden prices for the convenience of making payments with your favorite smart device:
"The payments sector is a key area of growth in the fintech sector: in 2016, this sector received 40% of the total investment in fintech22. Transactions paid by most electronic means can be tracked, even those in physical shops. In the US, Google has access to 70% of credit and debit card transactions—through Google’s "third-party partnerships", the details of which have not been confirmed23. The growth of alternatives to cash can be seen all over the world... There is a concerted effort against cash from elements of the development community... A disturbing aspect of the cashless debate is the emphasis on the immorality of cash—and, by extension, the immorality of anonymity. A UK Treasury minister, in 2012, said that paying tradesman by cash was "morally wrong"26, as it facilitated tax avoidance... MasterCard states: "Contrary to transactions made with a MasterCard product, the anonymity of digital currency transactions enables any party to facilitate the purchase of illegal goods or services; to launder money or finance terrorism; and to pursue other activity that introduces consumer and social harm without detection by regulatory or police authority."27"
The report cited a loss of control by consumers over their personal information. Going forward, the report included general and actor-specific recommendations. General recommendations:
- "Protecting the human right to privacy should be an essential element of fintech.
- Current national and international privacy regulations should be applicable to fintech.
- Customers should be at the centre of fintech, not their product.
- Fintech is not a single technology or business model. Any attempt to implement or regulate fintech should take these differences into account, and be based on the type activities they perform, rather than the type of institutions involved."