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Consumers Give Away Privacy to Bippy.com

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Social media gone too far. The startup Blippy.com allows users to create a profile track what they have been purchasing so all their friends can see what they are buying. Now is that feature really worth risking your credit card data?

Blippy, which opened last fall, was the first site to introduce the notion of sharing credit card and other purchases on the Internet - essentially a financial version of Facebook. To use Blippy, you link one or more of your credit or debit cards through to Blippy. From then on, each transaction you make will show up on Blippy's site as something like, "Joe spent $78.32 at Woolworths."

Last month Blippy attracted around 125,000 visitors and closed an investment round of $11 million from venture capitalists.  Both Blippy and its rival Swipely (still in beta) encourage users (mostly Americans with no sense of privacy) to share the contents of their credit card statements with their friends. Blippy’s founder believes that purchase histories “used to be private only because there was no way to share them.”

Maybe this idea has some of the cool factor of Facebook, Twitter and other social media - but it is also a huge risk. Sure enough, several credit card transactions shared on social networking site Blippy have been exposed — with full credit card numbers showing up in Googlesearch results.

In response to this breach, Blippy said that just four credit card numbers were released and in their blog they say that they "are serious about security and want to assure Blippy users that this was an isolated incident from many months ago in our beta test, and doesn't affect current users.  Also, this was not the result of a hack or security breach." 

Though the best line was, "While it looks super-scary and is embarrassing to us, it's a lot less bad than it looks."  As if that is supposed to comfort users about their security. Though, I suppose that most people who sign up for Blippy must have a high tolerance for risk, so maybe statements like that will work for them.

One retailer has been unwilling to play with Blippy citing the all too obvious security concerns is Amazon. Blippy recently offered a workaround, asking users to link their Gmail accounts, so it can skim their inboxes for Amazon receipts. Blippy claims that thousands of users took this step.  Once again, highlighting the high risk tolerance of Blippy users and at the same time allowing Amazon to look pretty good in raising these concerns.

Blippy argues that as more users share this data, they will be able to drive down the purchase price of this kind of data. When people are inspired to imitate their friends’ purchases posted on the site and get them at this "reduced price" Blippy is hoping to make a commission on the sale.

This weekend was a rough one for Blippy and it's customers. When users learned of the issue, some wanted to disconnect their credit card accounts or delete their entire user account. Blippy's servers could not handle the load and many customers were unable to access their accounts and thus they could not update or delete their data.  

Here's hoping that Blippy and Swipely hit the Internet graveyard before they manage to cross the oceans!

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