Published on 14 Jul 2015

Apple Pay: who profits?

The unholy fight for the future of your wallet just took a giant step forward with the launch of Apple Pay in the UK.

Hand over your fingerprint and credit card details to your iPhone 6, and you can swipe your handset to make purchases up to £20 (unless you’re an HSBC customer: the bank is “working hard” to get it up and running in the next fortnight).

Apple drops into the mobile phone payments melee at an exciting point: Facebook has craftily turned its Messenger app into a money transfer system, PayPal is fighting its corner on in-store bills, and the traditional banks have fought back with services like Barclays’ mobile Pingit system.

Apple Pay Launches In The UK

It’s no surprise that so many companies want to help you pay. To quote Fight Club’s Tyler Durden: “The things you own end up owning you”.

Knowing your purchase history allows companies like Apple (through services like iTunes for example) to build up a profile of your habits. Not only can they use that data to target their own products at you, they can sell it to others to help them target you too.

But the mobile payments industry gives an extra layer of valuable data: location. When I shop online for food at home, I buy virtuous fruit and veg. When I’m out and about, I have a weak spot for pastries and giant packs of liquorice allsorts. Knowing not just what we all buy, but also where, is an incredibly powerful tool for retailers, marketeers and advertisers, especially given the huge scale of the industry.

In terms of how Apple Pay specifically gathers information about its users, here are the relevant T&C’s:
“Apple Pay was designed so that when you pay in stores Apple doesn’t collect any transaction information that can be tied back to you. If you have Location Services turned on, the location of your device and the approximate date and time of the transaction may be sent anonymously to Apple.”

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14 reader comments

  1. RockySpears says:

    … or alternatively just stick a debit card to the back of the phone, under the case or inside the cover, don’t give anything away, and you’re done.

    Wow that was hard.

  2. Eli says:

    You are wrong, Geoff. Don’t spread misinformation when you haven’t done your research.

    http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/27/apple-pay-no-data-collection-isnt-a-feature-its-a-problem/

  3. blenz101 says:

    The whole point of apple pay is that it doesn’t keep any of your payment history data and nothing is sent to Apple. It creates an anonymous transaction between you and the retailer… this blog post is just mis-information.

  4. Reason077 says:

    “Knowing your purchase history allows companies like Apple to build up a profile of your habits. Not only can they use that data to target their own products at you, they can sell it to others to help them target you too”

    Apple does not retain your purchase history when using Apple Pay.

    See: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT203027

  5. Chris Platts says:

    You should have done further research on how Apple Pay works.

    Apple do not store payment information. They’ve said this repeatedly and the correct public disclosures on how Apple Pay works supports this.

    They do not need that revenue stream. Their revenue comes from hardware sales and from what I understand, they’re doing quite well on that front. In fact, deliberately not collecting information that would be valuable to an advertising-revenue based company might want is a selling point for their hardware.

    User privacy is a selling-point for companies which make their money from sales of the product itself.

    User privacy is anathema to companies whose products are ‘free’ but revenue is obtained via advertising and the sale of information.

    If you were to forget any prejudice for or against Apple and Google, which of those two categories do you think each company falls into?

  6. Rob Most says:

    Mate, you’re wrong about Apple tracking any information about your purchases.

    All they do is supply the verification for your purchase with their (currently) uncrackable fingerprint reader security system.

    If a retailer sells your location, purchase amount or item purchased information to another party, that has absolutely no connection to Apple or ApplePay.

  7. Roger Hayes says:

    Geoff White on Technology needs to do a bit of research before writing accusatory stuff like this:

    “Knowing your purchase history allows companies like Apple to build up a profile of your habits. Not only can they use that data to target their own products at you, they can sell it to others to help them target you too (it’d be fascinating to know exactly what deal Apple has cut with Visa and Mastercard, and how much information the credit card companies are going to share with the tech giant).”

    Apple doesn’t collect any of this information. It is between the user, and their bank. Even the retailer doesn’t get the user’s card details.

  8. Dan says:

    “Knowing your purchase history allows companies like Apple to build up a profile of your habits.”

    Misinformation.

    “Apple doesn’t save your transaction information. With Apple Pay, your payments are private. Apple Pay doesn’t store the details of your transactions so they can’t be tied back to you. Your most recent purchases are kept in Passbook for your convenience, but that’s as far as it goes.”

  9. John says:

    To suggest Apple is building a profile of our spending habits is factually incorrect. From Apple’s own Apple Pay security and privacy overview:

    “Apple Pay is also designed to protect your personal information. Apple Pay doesn’t collect any transaction information that can be tied back to you. Payment transactions are between you, the merchant, and your bank.”

    Source: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203027

  10. Paul S says:

    Wow, you really don’t know anything about Apple Pay do you. Did you do _any_ research before posting such rubbish about Apple tracking what you buy?

  11. dale says:

    What a complete load of cods wallop!

    Apple does not keep any transaction data, all the system does is pass secure keys between each other.

    The only company who knows WHAT you purchased, is the shop itself

    Please stop spreading FUD

  12. Peter White says:

    Apple does not collect information about anything you buy with Apple Pay. Do you research before you post! Call yourself a journalist? Ha

  13. Alan says:

    There appears to be a lot of faith in Apple’s claims of privacy. As always, with a nod to the author, one should keep an open mind.

  14. Philip Edwards says:

    Geoff,

    “Knowing your purchase history allows companies like Apple……to build up a profile of your habits.”

    And not only companies…………

    Which I think is your point……………..

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