Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Mar 6, 2013


New World Economic Forum Report Underscores the Importance of Data Collection and Use in Context

Last week the World Economic Forum release a report called, “Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage.” As part of the Forum’s steering board on personal data, I was able to contribute to the report, which explores the importance of unlocking the value of data in a way that preserves the trust of all stakeholders.

One important theme in the report is the value of managing consumer expectations through context setting. What that means is the use of personal data should be understandable when compared to what is being shared and why. Most consumers don’t need or want every detail of every data flow. What they are ultimately looking for is clear benefits from use of their data. For that they need context.

At Visa we understand the importance of context. In the Visa system, for example, consumers are delighted when analytics are used to identify attempted fraud on their accounts. I have repeatedly heard from consumers who applaud us for working with their bank to flag a suspicious purchase. It makes them feel safer. It is only possible if we use their own shopping behavior to look for patterns. But this data use is expected — and welcomed — by consumers because they understand the context.  And they support its purpose.

As companies explore new ways to use data and the opportunities and responsibilities that come with them, they need to keep the importance of context and consumer expectations in mind. When consumers understand the context, they feel a sense of transparency and control. With context, there is trust. And with trust, there is opportunity.


Posted by: Ellen Richey, Chief Enterprise Risk Officer on March 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Jan 28, 2013

New Year, Renewed Focus: Responsible Innovation

Today is Data Privacy Day, an annual event observed internationally to promote privacy awareness and education. While the day is an important reminder, creating and maintaining a data privacy culture is a year-round job — an important one as companies explore the explosion of data availability and the opportunities and responsibilities that come with it.

There’s no question that Visa — like most companies — is striving to evaluate how the age of “big data” will shape our business and how information can deliver greater value to cardholders, merchants, and clients.  But in this changing technology landscape, one guiding value remains constant at Visa: the importance of maintaining trust.  So no matter what 2013 brings, we resolve that payment innovations at Visa won’t come at the expense of our long-held commitments to security and privacy that have made us a trusted name in payments for over 50 years.

Hear more about Visa’s approach to responsible innovation:


Posted by: Russell Schrader, Visa Chief Privacy Officer on January 28, 2013 at 8:55 am

Mar 5, 2012

U.S. Department of Commerce White Paper Furthers Privacy Debate

A little over a year ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a preliminary report on privacy.  That “green paper” has now ripened into a framework of specific recommendations aimed at protecting the privacy and use of consumer data while promoting global commerce innovations.

Last week, I joined the group at the White House for the release of the Framework and White Paper for protecting privacy and promoting innovation in the global digital economy.


Posted by: Russell Schrader, Visa Chief Privacy Officer on March 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Jan 28, 2012

Make Every Day Privacy Day

I recently read a report about identity theft – where personal information is hacked or hijacked and then used to perpetrate fraud.  It stated that identity theft led to losses in excess of $13 billion!  It was another great reminder of how important it is for people to be aware of the simple ways they can stop it.  We all have a part to play in cyber security, but individuals can play a huge role in keeping their own information safe.


Posted by: Russell Schrader, Visa Chief Privacy Officer on January 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Oct 27, 2011

Visa Views on Privacy

Earlier this year, Visa announced a U.S. program – called “Real Time Messaging” – that uses cardholder information with their permission to send them offers and discounts directly to their cell phones.  The service is made possible because of Visa’s unique ability to use its insights and technology to integrate card use, location and proximity – an ability that is core to the underlying Visa network offering.  But it only became real because customers said “yes” to the opt-in service. There are now 14 U.S. merchants signed up for this program, because it promises to deliver real value to their businesses.

Why is this worth repeating now?  Because in an age of “big data” and privacy concerns, there is understandable concern about how payment card data is put to commercial use.  This concern was undoubtedly reinforced by a speculative Wall Street Journal article on Tuesday.

So let me share our perspective to bring some facts into the conversation.  Privacy is top of mind for consumers – and it’s top of mind for us, too.  As our CEO Joe Saunders stated in the earnings call earlier in the week, Visa is “100% committed to maintaining the highest standard of security and privacy with this [cardholder] information. And of course, account-specific information will only be used with direct consumer permission.”  It’s this commitment to safeguarding customer data that has helped us become one of the world’s most trusted brands.

It’s important to understand the Visa system is anonymous.  When processing a Visa card transaction, we only see transactions associated with a 16-digit number – we don’t have access to cardholder names or Social Security numbers.  The information we are entrusted with is needed to facilitate a cardholder’s transaction and ensure a merchant gets paid.  Additionally, that information is used in the fight against fraud.

Like any innovative company, we consider a lot of ideas for future products and take action to protect them, as evidenced by our exploratory patents.  As we evaluate turning concepts into real products, you can be assured they will meet the same privacy and security standards as those products and services you already trust and know. Trend data will contain no personal information, and transactions are aggregated.  What might this look like?  Well, our data might show that consumers in ZIP code 94404 spend more in auto repair shops than in surrounding zip codes.  And, when Visa offers a product that uses account-specific information associated with a known consumer, such information will only be used with direct consumer permission.

The Bottom Line:  Our business is based on the trust of the people who use our network.  No trust, no network.  So whatever the future holds, we will continue to work to maintain the high standard of security and privacy that we have always followed as we handle transaction data.  We have done a good job earning the trust of users to date, and we intend to keep it that way.


Posted by: Russell Schrader, Visa Chief Privacy Officer on October 27, 2011 at 2:14 pm