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Big Banker is watching you 120

Herger wrote in with a story about how banks are developing databases to track 'profitable' customers and serve 'losers' less well to discourage them from using their services (not having debt qualifies you as a loser). The databases use demographics about all aspects in our lives for evaluation by creditors. Indeed Oracle's Larry Ellison went as far as to suggest banks warehouse "psychographic" data: hobbies, political opinions, magazine subscriptions and "actions," including clubs joined, recent purchases, restaurants and designer boutiques frequented which would allow banks that own unrelated businesses like casinos or hotels to market them. Is this OK with you, or do we need to start a Slashdot Cooperative Bank ? ;-)
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Big Banker is watching you

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  • This sort of activity and the customer fallout it generates is exactly why the banking industry lobbies congress so hard to make it difficult to join credit unions. My wife and I have both been cu members for > 15 years & wouldn't give it up for any standard bank.

    On another note, I've heard that in Britian it's illegal to keep personal information about someone in a database without that person's express written permission (can anyone confirm/deny, or know of other countries that do this?). Probably far past time for that type of legislation in the U.S.

    In any case, the few minutes it takes to write your congress-critter & express your views can only help.

  • This is just another case like Katz wrote about awhile ago of how big brother is taking over.....

    Support strong encryption and anonymous accouts!
  • Posted by BikE_PUnX:

    suddenly, when YOU'RE the owner, the service/rates/pricing gets a lot better!
    "If you can't fix it with duct tape, it's fucked."
  • Posted by markl farkl:

    Luckys (Grocery store) should change the name of thier rewards coupon card to customer habit tracking card. Yes you do get a discount but at what cost to your privacy?
    They have a data base of everything that you buy! Gee I wonder what they do with this information?
    It gets harder and harder to keep your privacy. Unless you don't have a job, bank account, credit card, any kind of subscription or medical history! YA RIGHT!!

    Markl farkl
  • Posted by Bob III:

    What more can be said? Here's a quick Quiz for you who remember the days of the SAT ...

    1) Bank:Credit Union::Windows:?

    a) Door
    b) DOS
    c) Linux
    d) Hell on Earth

    (correct answer: c)
  • Posted by I killed Rob Malda:

    Credit Unions- member owned, accountable to members, a lot nicer to users. I predict, because of things like this, they will become much more popular.
  • Posted by TrustMe:

    This stuff's for real people. They want to know your every move. We're developing software that targtets the top banks in the world and they are highly excited about it.
  • Banks are just plain evil. You pay *them* money for the privilege of letting *them* borrow your money in a checking account. You pay them twice if you use an ATM. You pay the opportunity cost of a better return interest rate if you put money in a savings account -- they invest at a much higher rate, so by accepting the trivial interest they pay you, in effect you're paying them again.

    Thank goodness Congress actually did something sensible for once and prevented the banks from limiting the memberships and services of credit unions last year. And I'm even more thankful that I'm a member for life at mine.....
  • Hmmmm... I like it! Maybe we could get special deals with hardware and software companies :)

  • Do not use a bank account (just for this reason). Trust me I know some of the best.

    Me? I actually like supporting my government with money I'd do it voluntarily if I weren't forced too, (c=

    ABORTED effort:
    Close all that you have.
  • The subject is a line from Bugs Bunny (now, there's someone not quoted enough on Slashdot.)

    It causes the hairy orange beast to run off scared.

    The hairy orange beast reminds me of the Slashdot posters (in general).
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^ ~~^~
    ABORTED effort:
    Close all that you have.
  • "Borrow a thousand dollars and the bank owns you; borrow a million dollars and you own the bank."
  • Exactly what is the bank going to do if their customers spend all of their student loans on open source projects? Do banks accept intellectual property as repayment for loans or is that still going to take selling T-shirts by day?
  • Here's some facts:
    a) You are not required to tell the banks any of this information.
    b) The only reason they get all these demographics is because people choose to use cheques or VISA.
    c) Consumer trials of stored value cards have consistently returned poor results
    d) The bulk of Cybercash's revenue comes from processing credit card transactions, as opposed to their electronic cash transations. So much so that it's now very hard to convince a client to build a Cyrbercoin enabled site.

    All this shows that customers really don't place much value on their privacy. Banks have been doing this kind of stuff for centuries, although now it's done with the help of a computer. With all the emphasis on electronic banking these days, I'm glad for it. I still remember trying to get a bank to release the funds on a cheque I'd deposited electronically the day before. They said if there was someone at the bank who could vouch for me, they'd do it. I said, "For years you guys have been encouraging me to do electronic banking, so I've only been in here once before. However, if you check with the computer, *it* will vouch for me, because it will show that I have consistently deposited a pay cheque at this time of the month for 2 years, and that I've never been overdrawn." It wasn't good enough for them. I changed banks.

    That being said, banks should not be able to pass on this information to other busnesses that they are involved in, and I believe this is legislated by law. If not, I'll be using a bank that agrees not to pass on my info to any other businesses without my express written consent.
  • So the banks wanna make a buck. Except for my mortgage and the occasional loan, banks don't make a ton of money off me. Neither do credit card companies as I don't carry a balance.

    I suppose I should be outraged, but I'm not. I see nothing wrong with a "club of profitable customers". It's the free market.

    Of course, this excludes large numbers of us, so we should be angry and require our legislators to DO something.

    Or should we?

    After all, large numbers of people represent a potential market for no frills service. Surely that market's desires will be filled (no one want's to carry wads of cash), and competition will keep fees to reasonable limits.

    It may be that talking to a teller face to face will become a thing of the past. But, that's just a consequence of people's time being worth more and more in an increasingly electronic society. You can't have increased value placed on human services and personal banking for Joe Lunchbucket at the same time.

    Futhermore, would /.ers really prefer a world without ATMs?
  • Yep... I couldn't agree more. And in the particular case of my credit union, I think they are perfecty Y2K safe, given the fact that they seem to carry out all their transactions on paper... :(
  • This is nothing new. I worked for seven years for a company developing banking software and this sort of capability was a prime selling feature.

    Consider this scenario: you are a consultant who has so many clients you can't remember them all. Some actually pay their bills, some are always fishing for free support. Wouldn't you like to know which ones are which?

    Banks are not doing this because they are evil. It is their only rational course of action. Banks don't care who you are or what you do EXCEPT for how it affects their bottom line.

    For anyone who feels that they are getting the short end of the stick, the solution is in no one's hands but your own. You should go out and make enough money to get the respect of your banker.
  • Come on, all you wannabe capitalists, why aren't you cheering? :P

    What such banking practices will end up doing, especially if we see a few more whacked-out "reforms" from Washington, is returning us to the pre-1930s banking system by shoving most of the lower class and lower-middle class out of the banking system. This implosion in savings will lead to an implosion in capital investment.

    Yes, indeed, credit unions were invented exactly because of this kind of garbage. Some political activism in their favor would be productive, I should think, if only to scare the regular bankers.

  • Thanks for the correction.

    Please don't tell der Fuhrer of my mistake.


  • Is the type of thing Ellison suggested even legal? I don't think they're allowed to store that much info. True, they need some if they are members of FDIC, but not that much, and I don't think it's legal anyway.
  • My area is UNIX app and system admin but I keep getting dragged into statistical support roles and that has meant in the last few years "data warehouses".

    Let me tell you something. It DOESN'T matter that they have an incomplete picture of you. When they are looking at 100K people like you it is not rocket science to fill in the blanks. Its a statistical thingy. :)

    I was always amazed at how uniform people are. Even if you think you are radical or a loner - there are thousands just like you buying the same shit.

    You're best bets: move a lot (ooh that makes 'em mad - humans have to verify that the new you is the old you. hehehe) On some bills use a middle name and others drop it. Certain orgs want only exact matches so when they order up 25 Million names (no kidding) you'll fall off as noise. (Lucky you.) To verify its you they'll call and ask for you and when you say "Yes. Speaking" they will hangup since all they wanted to do is verify you. If you don't know who is on the other line then reveal anything yourself.

    Its not all that bad since this has been going on for a while and you've been doing just fine.

    Hope this helped a bit.

  • I'm 100% completely serious.

    GPL the sucker. I'll work as a teller one week a year :)
  • Well, if they're going to fuck us in the ass, we may as well enjoy it, right!

    The biggest problem with this country is that it is full of people willing to "get over" things, and nobody willing to say "no" or take a stand.
    This makes you a subject, not a citizen.

    In 1999 at least we still have the option to refuse to do business with companies who abuse their customers, and that is what some of us actual citizens plan to do.

    I'm grateful that Slashdot brought this bit of information to my attention. Concern != paranoia.
  • OK, you can go to Canada and open a bank account. You'll have to have a Social Insurance Number, of course.

    I don't believe it's possible to open a US bank account without an SSN; when I moved to the US, I had to get one before doing any banking.

  • I used to think it was bad when the banks fought to keep the credit unions small...but think of it, the whole problem is that banks have merged and gotten bigger and bigger and less concerned with the little guy. So by keeping the credit unions localized, the banks are inadvertantly making sure that the credit unions remain attractive to us.

    I'd rather see lots of localized credit unions than big ones which act like the corporate banks we all know and love.
    Aaron Gaudio
    "The fool finds ignorance all around him.
  • ...can be found at faq.html []

    The document includes this text:


    Banks and various others are required by the IRS to report the SSNs of account holders to whom they pay interest. If you don't tell them your number you will probably either be refused an account or be charged a penalty such as withholding of taxes on your interest. Most banks will refuse to open safe deposit boxes without a SSN, though there is no direct governmental requirement that they collect it. One correspondent reported that he was able to open a non-interest bearing account at a US bank by presenting a passport and international driver's license. (This correspondent implied that it was a US passport. You can get an international driver's license at AAA.)

  • These folks remind me of Alec Baldwin's character in "Glengary Glen Ross" ... except in the movie, it was funny. Here, it's just saddening and pathetic.
  • The way I read it (a month or three ago, but I can't remember exactly where on the web) "Know Your Customer" is, according to the government, to protect the banks from damage to their reputations if any of their customers are using them to launder money, et cetera. Aren't you thrilled to know your bank is going to have to charge you more to cover the cost of spying on you to protect themselves from something they apparently previously didn't consider a problem until the government started leaning on them?
  • Until it gets replaced by Saturday's paper this site
    has a story about how the states are not only selling your name, address, et cetera, from their drivers license files but now they're selling your picture too! "Your face is in the database"
  • Thirdly, I work at a bank. We AREN'T doing anything beyond normal customer demographics (age, geography, account size, etc).

    You may not be, but the computer may be doing it for you. You guys in the trenches, after all, don't have a Need To Know.


  • Really? What was it replaced by? Did I miss that vote? I guess I should attend the weekly meetings more often then....Damn! ;)

  • by scottj ( 7200 )
    Big Wanker is watching you....
  • Once again the majority of the Slashdot community lashes out in shock as they discover (once again) that banks like to make money. I guess you all knew that already, but you've never understood it. Everyone seems to think that a bank is there to serve him, that its legal obligation is to serve him, and that to ever show any sort of greed whatsoever is a capital offense (no pun intended).

    Banks make investments. Every loan or mortgage is an investment. What is an investment? It is when you risk something valuable to yourself in order to support someone else, with a chance of profiting in the end. Now you expect a bank to make either a blind investment, or a bad investment fully aware of the high risk of failure. You want it to be illegal to want to profit.

    Why are you so worried about information being collected about you? Unless banks are hiring private investigators, they can only obtain information available to any perceptive person. And any perceptive person can be deceived, if you are so afraid of others knowing whatever truth about you embarrasses you. And what's the worst that can happen? Junkmail directed towards some stereotypical misjudgment of your personality? Gee, I get that already.


  • It's not a matter of express written permission - they have to tell you that the data is kept on computer, but they generally tell you this in four-point flyspeck at the bottom right-hand corner of the form.

    In principle, you can write to any organisation and ask to see, and to correct if wrong, all the information they hold about you. Very few people do this, though.

  • But the 'other books bought' stuff is reasonably useful information for you. I don't consider the list of books I've purchased to be private information.

    In fact, there's not much I consider to be private information. My current checking account balance is £712.88; how does that help you? Why is it a bit of information that you'd rather random people don't know?
  • If my bank starts doing this, I'll tell them to go to hell. Is it just me, or has Big Business really decided flat-out that us peons should not have any right to privacy?

  • I am certainly glad I belong to a credit union.
    The service I get from my CU is so much more
    personable and friendly.

    I'd urge anybody who can, to join a CU. I know new laws (and existing ones) make it difficult to join. (Those laws are courtesy of Big Banker.)
  • a) You are not required to tell the banks any of this information.
    You will, if you want to open an account.
    b) The only reason they get all these demographics is because people choose to use cheques or VISA.
    but what will they use it for? to better serve the poor fools with small accounts? I think not.
    What's all the excitement about?
    c) Consumer trials of stored value cards have consistently returned poor results
    which is why we still need banks...
    Some of us are just now learning to value our privacy, and we don't like the sound of this.
  • I used to work for a utility. Without going into details, they use much the same kind of information in their marketing plans. Of course they wouldn't cut off your power if you were a bad customer...they'd just offer you different services depending on whether they thought you were a conservationist or not, for example...

    Does it suck? Maybe. Consider that if some redneck came into power and started enforcing, say, anti-sodomy laws in certain states, such information could help him track down likely suspects and start making an age where it's pretty easy to get enough information on someone to make a 95% match for a particular demographic group, the cops could get a search warrant just based on stuff they pull off of marketing databases.

    Prosecutor: "Your honor, our computer says that it's 98% likely that this man owns at least one sexual toy, and that makes him 99.7% likely to engage in oral sex with his wife."
    Judge: "I don't know my statistics kid but that's enough to convince me. Go ahead and arrest, we'll get that sodomite on a felony."

    Of course, that's assuming the redneck in question is balsy enough to ignore certain Supreme Court rulings on privacy.

  • is it that common to have debt? borrowing money sounds to me like the thing I wouldnt want to do, unless I was really screwed or basically had no choice.
  • Larry Ellison is a jackass and has no problem trading in our privacy for his profit. He needs to grow some eyebrows too....
  • I can't resist recommending one of the funniest web pages I've ever seen:

    Humungous Bank: [] Your money is our money.

    This is a very nicely disguised ad for Richmond Savings, a Canadian credit union.


  • ``With all the emphasis on electronic banking these days, I'm glad for it. I still remember trying to get a bank to release the funds on a cheque I'd deposited electronically the day before. They said if there was someone at the bank who could vouch for me, they'd do it. I said, "For years you guys have been encouraging me to do electronic banking, so I've only been in here once before. However, if you check with the computer, *it* will vouch for me, because it will show that I have consistently deposited a pay cheque at this time of the month for 2 years, and that I've never been overdrawn." It wasn't good enough for them.''

    EXACTLY! The banks have been pretty much doing everything they can to discourage actually walking up to a teller window. Now that they've succeeding in getting us (or at least you) to avoid tying up the time of those highly-paid bank tellers ( :-) ), the only thing that'll satisfy them when you want to make a withdrawal (like yours) is for you to have used a part of their service that they gotten you to stop using. This is the way to foster customer loyalty.

    I don't know about your bank, but I've noticed over the past few years that more and more of the banks that I've been to have these sign posted stating ``Please don't offended if we ask to see identification because we probably won't recognize you.'' So much foe the ability to get someone from the bank to vouch for you. Perhaps if you just applied for a loan the week before (i.e. gotten yourself into the position of owing the bank money!) then maybe, just maybe, they'll remember you.

    ``I changed banks.''

    They deserve more of this. (BTW, I'm about to change banks because the services that I once had have changed so much since the bank was purchased that it seems that the service that I pay for are geared more for the convenience of the bank.

  • Give me Libertarian Socialism or give me death. I can't stand to watch our individuality slip away any longer.

    No offense, but I'd prefer to give death... Hadenough socialismin my life. And don't tell me it was not what it should be. It was all that's possible.
  • I have read that the right to privacy was not actually spelled out in the constitution and, come to think of it, I don't ever remember reading it there.

    So far the privacy rights I have seen involve only physical property, requiring a warrant to get it. Do we have any situations where the government was required to get a warrant before getting non-public information on someone?

    --John Keiser
  • Know Your Customer has not been officially implemented yet, and is being vigorously fought by the ACLU and other groups.

    Addionally, Know Your Customer, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't require the bank to contact the customer if they see suspicious activity, it requires the bank to contact the Fed and the IRS.
  • Now, the story is available at here. []
  • Credit unions are non-profit organizations
    required by law to only loan money to members or to other credit unions.

    What would be "profits" in banks instead turn into things like interest on checking accounts for members and no fees for service provided by human beings.
  • In the 70's, when computer-aided big brother-kind of behaviour from governments was feared, France passed a law requiring computerized files containing personal information to be declared to an independent authority and requiring government agencies and companies filing such information to offer filed people a right to correct wrong information. Filing of religious, political or racial information was banned.

    It seems that the law was a good idea, albeit nowadays we less have to fear "big government" than "big business".
  • When I was in the US, I wanted to open an account and was very much surprised that they required a "social security number". What a lot of fuss and red tape just for a checking account. Then they told me I could go without a SSN if I filled an IRS form. I had to fill a something like 6-page IRS form written in obscure fiscal and financial legalese.

    So it seems that the SSN thing comes from IRS regulations.

    You might be interesting to know that until very recently, the French fiscal authorities were prevented by law from using the social security number, and that changing this made such a fuss that I actually wonder whether it will actually get voted.
  • Yes, as a foreign visitor, it seemed to me completely insane that so many private companies (banks, telcos...) were requiring SSNs all the time. What a *** bureaucracy! And when English is a foreign language, you LOVE those IRS forms talking about lots of stuff you don't know anything about.

    Don't want to sound chauvinistic, but last time I had to get a phone line opened in France, I phoned the telco (toll-free) from a public payphone, told them my address, and they got it opened the next working day. And they do the paperwork AFTERWARDS (basically sending you a bill).

  • Yeah, man! Preach that submissivness! You, go, girl! The men in power are able to stay in power because of masses are all content, gullible, morons like you. You're worse than the fscking communists.
  • In all seriousness. Its a good idea, and it doesn't have to be based in the States. Hell, I'd even work for it if it wasn't completely automated :)
  • Here's the story [] in their archives.
  • Here's the story [] in their archives.

    (Sorry about that last link; it was from a search and seems to have been a one-shot link.)
  • All companies that want to be successful have to pay attention to their consumers. Computers and large scale data handling of today is just making it possible to do it in new "frightening" ways. If you don't want this kind of data to exist use cash.

    Oh, and don't touch that cash.. the men in black check finger prints and DNA samples.

    Ultimately banks are not out to get you because you don't carry a balance on your credit card or let your
    loans go to full term. They just won't offer you the best rate because you're not going to keep paying them.

    It'll turn out good for the consumer. People who use stuff a lot will get better rates because they paid for them. Those who don't arguably don't need them.

    The money to set up the banking networks and services all has to come from somewhere. Whether its on a piece of paper you see or hidden somewhere else the costs will ultimately be paid by the consumer.
  • Who owns the copyright for that kind of data? Shouldn't we be able to individually copyright our own 'data' against unfair use?

    Man. I'm still mad about the lyrics server, too.

    -- Duane
  • Some products ask you to "register" in order to recieve tech support or some stupid gift.
    When you fill the form you have some privacy-invading options too.

    Nothing new here.

    Goverment keeps tracking people and listening to phone calls for years, alot before 1984.
    (true, its not like in 1984, but its really close)
  • We've nothing to fear from the government as far as our privacy is concerned.. Big Business (or E-Business) will have cataloged, indexed, filed, reported and decided your fate long before the government will ever have a chance. We're all just one collective record in some gigantic database.. and as long as you fall into some *formula* you will get by..

    Sheesh.. I'm depressed..
  • It is my opinion that the KYC (know your customer)
    concept is a blatant invasion of privacy.

    If Slashdot does create a Cooperative Bank...
    I would be happy to put my money there.

    ( Just as long as they were polite and kept there fingers out of my business ; )
  • Credit Unions are organized under State or Federal Non-Profit charters, usually with clauses limiting the eligibility of members quite specifically. Recently, many credit unions have been reorganizing under broader membership eligibility clauses, allowing people such as geeks to join. Visit to find more information. Fun idea. I've often thought there should be an "Earthlings Credit Union".
  • Banks are bad, hmmmkay?

    I haven't been a customer of a bank in several years because of this sort of thing and because of their selectively enforced "policies". Walk into the branch your paycheck is drawn on and try to cash it wearing nice clothes and it's "yes sir, would you like an envelope". Walk into the same bank 2 weeks later wearing jeans and a tee-shirt and it's "I'm sorry sir, our policy prohibits cashing a check that large without an account. Please wait over there while we pull the signature card." I spend a lot on money orders and I'll probably never own a brand new car or a house, but if you ask me, that's a small price to pay to for my privacy and peice of mind. I have a friend who recently accidentally bounced a check. His bank froze his account for 3 days AFTER he had deposited enough money to cover the check. As he is one of these 'modern' types that has no cash but uses a debit card for everything, he was penniless the whole time he was trying to straighten out the error. He has a considerable savings account too. Banks are evil. Period.
  • Blah.... I'll start moving large sums of money between accounts just to fsck with their records. What happened to Privacy, Freedom, etc? I hate my bank already. I guess I am a 'loser' customer.

    I want a anonymous account with Slashdot bank in the carribean.
  • In situations where rights can be bought or sold they become worthless to the original owner of the right.
    The specific issue I would like to talk about is drug testing of employees or potential employees to determine decisions of hiring or firing.(or less extreme more $ or less $) This also applies to banks accepting or rejecting and setting of fees and rates in a discriminatory manner.
    The characters are
    the drug testing employer
    the non drug testing employer
    the nondoped valueable employee
    the nondoped worthless employee
    the doped valueable employee
    the doped worthless employee

    First off we must agree that all people have the right not to be drug tested. This would be saying that they expect that other people could not just walk up to them and stick them with a needle for no reason.
    Employers enter the picture. They are seeking to hire valuable employees and not hire worthless employees.(or less extreme pay >$) They can get a better idea if an employee is valuable by hiring those who agree to take and pass a drug test because there exists a correlation between drug use and valuable employees.
    Drug testing employers offer the test to determine hiring.
    The nondoped valueable employee only stands to gain from this as can distinguish himself from the dopesmokers who will not be hired and also from the nonvalueable employees. He does give up his right not to be stuck with a needle. He also tends to prefer employers who test for drugs as he now has another inherent advantage.
    The nondoped worthless employee loves this policy. Not only does it get him past the druggies, but it also, in the employers eyes, puts him in the category of valuable because of the correlation between dope and worthless employees. He tends to prefer employers who test for drugs as he has the inherent advantage of passing and the additional advantage of becoming "valuable" because of it. He does give up his right to not be stuck with a needle however.
    The doped valuable employee really get screwed over. Not only does he flunk the test because he is classified as worthless, but now the employer will freely distribute that information about him. He also has given up his right not to be drug tested.
    The doped wothless employee also loses out. He flunks the test, and is considered worthless, which is true, unfavorable information is distributed about him, but he has also lost his right not to be drug tested.
    The nontesting employer really loses out. The nondoped valueable employees have all went to work for the testing employer, so his hiring pool is the doped group. He has heard bad things about how this group is doped from the first employer. Since he is not doing the drug tests he will tend to hire worthless employees because of the higher correlation with drugs. We can expect the nontesting employer to start testing thus becoming a testing employer, and nontesting employers cease to exist.
    When nontesting employers do not exist there is no way to avoid the drug test other than being unemployed. Everyone needs to eat, and will have to be at least minimally employed. Therefore they will all take the tests and perhaps even quit the drug habit. Even if noone ever did drugs, everyone will still have effectively lost their right to not be stuck with a needle.
    The only defence of employees against this loss of rights is collective actions. But the nondoped ones will tend to defect. Therefore government action is necessary in order to stop this loss of employees rights to their empl

  • What level of data gathering is reasonable and unreasonable? I certainly think selling it to other unrelated businesses unreasonable, but a bank selling this to a stock company MAY be reasonable. Its about services, profits, and markets more than power, corruption, and control, I think. Banks really want to serve more people(a transaction based service payment schem) more often, and by collecting and tracking they think they can(no guarantees, after all!)

    If anyone is into anime, its a lot like companies following polls and fansubs... Anything that gets fansubbed and watched all over the place is a target for a profitable import to the US... the question is how to get this data? I guess some companies/most companies believe in tracking and profiles. I actually don't know how much of a privacy invasion, as I don't know that they actually match profiles to data to names. What they want to know however is what tax bracket is most likely to repay and not default, which area, region, market and demographic does the most business? Are there related services they can cross-sell, with relative confidence and minimum hassle? If students from XXX schools tend to be good at loan repayment, credit card responsible, and well earning graduates, can a program be set up at XXX schools to get them for life?

    That kind of thing. I don't know that its anyone but the vocal paranoid types that care and complain, since more often than not it means better tailored service! It also means that if you fit a negative stereotype(I don't know what they are, but it should be common sense that a person without income, no college degree, unmarried, and living with parents would be an example of such a negative profile), its not just discrimination! Nor is it wrong... Its just you have a bad set of circumstances, and in 95% of other people in similar circumstances, the bank/institution suffered from bad business.

    Colleges do such profiles and tracking before you apply, and more often than not it is voluntary. Market place institutions want to achieve a similar efficiency and get similar benefits. I know for example that Slashdot is a pretty accurate way to profile my and my friends, at least in interesting computing and news events, so if a company wanted to market to me, they might want to see Slashdot and observe our trends, tendencies, and such.

    But then again, its like stock market prediction programs... how much of their sucess is because hundreds of programs are shaping the stock market to fit their model, rather than modeling and predicting the stock market? If companies start to dictate our behavior, rather than using our behavior to predict our future purchases, they both limit and reduce their future growth.

  • Luckily, most of Europe have laws that are designed to stop things like that. In most European countries there are very strict rules about what data you can keep about a person, and many countries also have laws that make anyone that want to keep records about persons to submit an application with a detailed description of what information they will keep and why.

    In Norway, for instance, the law says you have to file an application regardless of what information you want to keep. Then they've given a few exception, such as for registers of members in an organization, and customer registers etc., but only very limited information. And there's really strict rules about what information you can sell or exchange - only about 90 companies have licenses to broker information, and most of them only name, address and phone number.

    And anyone who use the information, have to state clearly where they obtained it in any correspondence with you, and can only use it once or twice unless you initiate a customer relationship (order something from them, for instance). That way you can track down who sells info about you.

    You also have the right to demand to be deleted from any register that haven't specifically been given a right to keep info against your will (police records etc.).

    If you recall, there's a controversy between the EU and the US going on because most of Europe has a lot stronger laws for protecting personal information than USA, and a new EU directive forbid EU based companies to export personal information to any country without as strict or stricter regulations...

    Maybe it's time US consumers demand some protection?

  • Wrong. You can open US bank accounts anywhere. Some banks are difficult, though. For example Bank Of America... I'm from Norway, and sure, I could open an account with them withouth any SSN or other nonsense - if I would just visit any of their branch offices in the US. Yeah, right, as if I'd use $2000+ to visit the US just to open an account with them.

    Chase Manhattan were much friendlier, though. After I mailed them, they called me to discuss what kind of account I wanted, gave me a contact person and mailed me an account opening kit to let me open an account by mail.

    The only real prerequisite for a foreigner to open an account with a US bank (except for US banks being extremely paranoid, and having lots of stupid nonsensical policies) is to fill out an W-8 form if you're a non-resident (if you spend more than 30 days in the US during a year, you may need additional forms for documentation to the IRS, usually Form 1001).

    If you're a US resident, but not a citizen, you can still fill out a W-9, but then you have to apply for a TIN, by filling out Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Number Card)

    You may have to fill out forms SS-5 and/or W-9 even if you're a "non-resident alien individual" (as defined by the IRS), if you do business in the US, though.

    The US tax and banking system is one of the most buerocratical I've ever seen, though... I've never been anywhere where it has been so difficult to get banking services done without having an account with the bank you go to.

    And they seem obsessed with forms :-)

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.