silentbrad writes: From the Globe and Mail: Canada’s big banks are preparing to launch “virtual wallets” as early as this fall that will allow consumers to digitally consolidate their credit and debit cards from any financial institution, and use them to make purchases online and through their cellphones at cash registers. It is being called the biggest change to the way consumers pay for goods in Canada in decades, and for the banks moving quickly into this space, the strategy is about keeping ownership of the vast and potentially lucrative stores of data that are involved in transactions. Royal Bank of Canada is expected to be first into the market in October, when it launches a digital wallet for mobile phones that will use RBC cards at first, but will eventually expand to welcome all brands of debit and credit cards. A few months later, the bank will launch a digital wallet for online purchases in partnership with Visa that holds all varieties of cards, regardless of brand. The majority of the banking sector is expected to follow suit in the next year or so, with each financial institution relying on the concept of “aliases,” where a password lets consumers access their payment cards, but protects personal information from being passed to the merchant. The alias method is similar to how online services such as PayPal work.... Retailers can use the information contained in transactions, stripped of details that violate privacy laws, to tailor offerings or promotions to consumers. And the banks figure they can build a new business from that new world. Location data on phones can help neighbourhood stores connect with customers in the area, while transaction data online can give insight into consumer habits and tastes. Consumers will be able to turn this feature on and off, Mr. McKay said, but will have access to offers, promotions and sales that would make it attractive. It is a potentially lucrative new business for the banks – making money off the data collected from each payment made via credit or debit cards, and the access the bank has to the consumer.
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