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Why Does First Data Know So Much About Consumers?

[Editor's Note: I am pleased to introduce the first guest author at I've Been Mugged. I've know William Seebeck for decades, going back to our time working together at Lexis-Nexis in Dayton, Ohio during the 1980's. Bill has a wealth of experience in online systems, banking, publishing, and public relations. Bill sent to me his comment below which he also submitted as a reply to the ZDNet blog post by Tom Formeski about First Data Corporation. Bill's message deserves the widest audience possible, and it includes advice both First Data and consumers would be wise to listen to.]

By Bill Seebeck

I'm sure that it is true, as Mr. Capellas states, that he knows more about what we (the American public) are likely to do next than we do ourselves.

However, I hope that Mr. Capellas also knows that he and First Data Corporation hold a special trust as the guardians of that information as it represents the most private of American consumer information.

Why does First Data know so much?

In part it is because First Data Corporation, now a private corporation, represents both sides of most electronic transactions. It represents more than 50% of the banks and other financial institutions that issue credit/debit cards and other electronic instruments. It also represents more than 50% of all merchants that accept credit cards at their stores, restaurants on the streets of America's towns and cities and also on the electronic highway that transits our Internet community. First Data also represents more than 50% of all the ATM's that Americans use every day.

This means that First Data Corporation has knowledge of your bank accounts, credit activity, purchasing data, and much, much more.

I think most Americans would agree Mr. Capellas that as a result of the role your company plays in all aspects of financial transactions that you and your company are in a very unique and most singular position. You hold a sacred trust it seems to guard the privacy of such transactions rather than thinking up new ways to monetarily benefit from the use or sale of this most private information.

Those of us who are pioneers in the use of electronic information and e-payment services believe that companies like First Data should be much more transparent. It is bad enough that America's consumers feel held hostage by the credit reporting agencies, it doesn't need another company to exploit them.

Mr. Capellas, most Americans don't know that you have access to their bank accounts, their store accounts, their phone records and their Internet activity. I strongly suggest that you keep what you and your company know about what is in those accounts to yourself. Show the people of America what keeping a sacred trust is all about.

William B. Seebeck
August 8, 2008. © William Seebeck.

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