Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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How much does the Apple Card protect user’s privacy?

February 21, 2020

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In August, Apple rolled out its first credit card marketed as protecting user privacy. The company stated that it will never see transaction data that’s sent to Goldman Sachs, its financial partner, and that Goldman will not share or sell user data or use it for ad sales.

Despite differentiating itself based in part on user privacy, Apple Card shares some of the same data as other credit cards. Goldman Sachs will still share information on whether bills are paid, according to the Washington Post, and like users of other credit cards, Apple Card users will still have their anonymized data gathered and shared with businesses.

As with credit cards, stores are able to track user purchases with an Apple Card. They can use that to target users with social media ads, and to share information about their shopping habits with others.

Financial institutions are required to share their privacy policies with customers, due to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999. And users can opt out of some information sharing with unrelated companies (non-affiliates) such as service providers, joint marketers, marketers, and other companies.

Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, your financial company can provide your personal financial information to non-affiliated service providers, including joint marketers. But before it shares your information with other third-party non-affiliates (outside of these exceptions), your financial company must tell you about its information sharing practices and give you the opportunity to opt out.

But few users read privacy policies all the way through. In fact, in 2008, researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated that it would take 76 days for users to read through all of the privacy policies they come across in a year.

That said, users that do want to opt out of some types of data sharing by credit card companies and by some retail stores can find online forms or phone numbers to be able to do so.

Privacy-focused users often opt to pay in cash, but there are some other options. One choice is to buy and pay with prepaid credit cards. Some third-party services, such as Abine and Privacy, allow users to make online purchases with virtual account numbers and email addresses. However, not all online sellers accept these cards, and there are sometimes geographic limitations.

Journalists reporting on credit card privacy can start by looking at privacy notices, which explain which specific personal financial information is collected, whether the company intends to share it, what users can do to limit the sharing, and what data protection measures are in place.

This information is available not just for banks, but also mortgage brokers, credit card-issuing retailers, some car dealerships, financial advisors, and more.

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