A week or so back mint quietly launched data.mint.com … to provide depersonalized data on shopping trends – E.g. average purchase amounts at tiffany – scraped from mint user accounts.
Interesting data to browse … some commercial questions :
1. I assume they’ve been (at least trying to) resell this data to retailers for a while … why give it away? There are some folks (including the banks) in the business of reselling credit card transaction histories for this purpose that must be finding it tough to compete against this free offer. All I can assume is that they feel that as a benchmarking tool the data will incent new subscribers to sign up to mint (and thus produce some lead gen revenue). However it may also create fear about data privacy.
2. Perhaps they may also attempt to develop an ecosystem by exposing APIs on this data. See an interesting post here : Mint Data Offers a Glimpse Into the Future — and It Is Very Good. (although they could have done this without the public service). How comfortable are users with sharing this type of data with other users (indirectly via benchmarking)?
3. Is it sufficiently depersonalized to protect user data privacy? How many purchases are there each month at Kroger in Carolina Peuro Rico by mint users? Not many I’d guess. This is a more general question – many legal frameworks consider depersonalization to be a binary state – i.e. data with Name/Address/etc is treated one way, data with these columns stripped another. However through fuzzy matching with more dimensions often “depersonalized” data can be used (intentionally or otherwise) to identify the individual. That’s fine in some contexts, but it’s ineffective that the norm is to delineate on the basis of the existence of these columns, rather than setting constraints around the potential to identify individuals.