Square Inc., a US-based financial services and merchant services aggregator has been found forwarding digital receipts to wrong people. Millions of debit and credit card transactions across several small businesses have helped Square understand the spending pattern of customers and build a profile for attracting advertisers. However, it is now found that it was accidentally forwarding several digital receipts to the wrong people.
Ms. Smith had made a payment to her local divorce attorney through a Square device. Square ended up forwarding the receipt to one of Ms. Smith’s friends and now, her secret divorce proceedings were known to her friend too.
“I might as well have put it out on Facebook or took out a front-page ad in the New York Times,” said Ms. Smith as reported the Wall Street Journal.
Square accumulated spending history and purchases of debit and credit cards for understanding people and their spending profile. The company then constructed profiles of customer behavior for running marketing and loyalty programs for small business customers.
It remains unclear with respect to the methods and consent practices followed by companies such as Square for collecting customer data. Credit and debit card transactions can reveal private information that cannot be obtained elsewhere easily. From a visit to your corner house coffee shop to a visit to your gynecologist, a lot can be understood from your credit or debit card footprint.
It is reported that Ms. Smith complained to Square about accidentally sending her receipt to her friend. Square got back to her and said that she used her friend’s email id at a previous purchase for getting a receipt. Hence, the receipt was automatically mailed to her. While Square claimed that they, ‘didn’t do anything wrong,’ Ms. Smith couldn’t agree with what they had to say.
A spokesperson from Square said that they were working on improving their systems to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. They said that they had improved and decreased as much as 50% of accidental forwarding of digital receipts when compared to the previous year.
The spokesperson also added that there could be a myriad of reasons behind why someone else would receive the receipt. Common factors include customers sharing a credit card number, sending the receipt to a recycled number accidentally, seller error or more.
Square operates by asking customers to input an email address which is then linked to their credit or debit card. It doesn’t verify whether the given email address matches with the email address provided to the credit or debit card during its issue.