In a surprising move, finance juggernaut Visa announced last week that it will be closing its personal data sales division Visa Ad Solutions. No further information was given about how Visa intends to move forward with regard to personal data, though Visa spokespeople adamantly confirmed that this is only a change in how Visa sells personal data, not an end to the process.
Major competitors Mastercard and American Express each operate their own data business divisions, selling anonymous user data to advertisers with relevant tags such as zip codes and purchasing habits. This practice is accompanied by a host of privacy concerns—even with a user’s identity kept confidential, it has been demonstrated that a mere handful of metrics are often sufficient to identify an individual user—but it is also a remarkably lucrative sector of the credit and debit industry. As Visa currently operates a wide majority of credit and debit cards in the United States, its (apparent, temporary) withdrawal from the data sales business comes as a surprise to industry experts.
Despite the mystery surrounding this move, it is understood that this isn’t the end for Visa in this increasingly important corner of the finance world. Senior Vice President and global head of data Melissa McSherry refers to the move as “strategic,” explaining that other data-driven offerings will be provided to clients in the future.