Here's How Our Relationship With Personal Data is Changing

Here's How Our Relationship With Personal Data is Changing

Here's How Our Relationship With Personal Data is Changing

Karim Ahmad

Karim Ahmad

Karim Ahmad is EVP of global product & innovation at TSYS, with more than 20 years of experience in financial services and consulting.

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In just a few short years, there have been massive changes in the way we consumed information – and, at times, the way it consumed us.

Data breaches reached unprecedented levels, most notably with the Equifax breach where 145 million identities were stolen, with the resulting personal information becoming available on the dark web.

We grappled with setting boundaries with our smart devices and chatbots. (Anyone remember the commercial where Burger King triggered thousands of Google Home devices with its Whopper commercial – and suffered major backlash as a result?)

Yet, in the midst of all of these challenges on the new digital frontier, we're seeing online transactions and social channels exploding in volume. More and more banks are shifting to digital application processes. Across all industries, businesses are increasingly using Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp and WeChat as service platforms to interact with customers. And this year's massive Black Friday and Cyber Monday mobile transaction volumes were the perfect illustration of just how much commerce and payments have become digital experiences — and ultimately, how we put our digital identities at risk.

This year, I believe we'll be faced with equally-as-tough challenges — and the stakes are high. At best, misuse or theft of personal information is massively inconvenient to consumers. At worst, they're left bearing the financial burden of fraud — which will cost us as an industry a collective $32 billion by 2020, according to the Nilson Report.

When it comes to our personal data, what challenges and changes can we expect this year?


There are massive amounts of personal data commercially available, including social security numbers, floating around on the dark web. And if the bad guys have it, it becomes less useful to the good guys. As a result, we'll have to redefine what constitutes appropriate identity verification and notification, and the entire financial sector will have to adapt. In addition, regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming out of the European Union in 2018 will fundamentally change the rules of the game for everybody who has access to consumer information. This is a powerful example of the way the world — and our industry — will be expected to change.

Challenges Around Transaction Security

Consumer Expectations

Mobile, the internet of things and machine-to-machine transactions are all becoming more prevalent. This means many new challenges — and sometimes more questions than answers — around transaction security. For example, if my smart refrigerator orders milk in error, who's responsible for the transaction? My issuer? The refrigerator manufacturer? The grocery store? In some ways, it's still the Wild West with some of these new digital experiences, and that will need to be sorted out.

Also worth pointing out is that in 2018, according to Oracle, millennials' spending power will reach $3.39 trillion, taking them even closer to becoming the generation with the most purchasing power. And let's face it — those millennials are not interested in filling out paper applications in a branch. The challenge now is verifying identities with a high degree of accuracy with all-digital interactions — in a time of unprecedented identity theft. No pressure!

Changing Technology

More and more, we're seeing banks look to chatbots deployed in digital assistants like Alexa and Siri as customer service channels. Yet, if I'm using my chatbot as a customer service agent, that implies a far greater level of security embedded in that transaction. The good news is that emerging technologies, such as voice-print identification and facial recognition, are creating authentication options that create less friction for the consumer (think of the current password complexity standards).

As an industry, we're also going to have to come up with a new set of standards around identity validation. Today they're things like verifying social security numbers and answering challenge questions. (I still can never remember the make and model of my first car.) But in the future, we’ll use biometrics and cryptography to secure passwords and websites, redefining the technological underpinnings of our entire security protocols.

So where does this leave us? I believe there's a joint challenge here — not only for our industry but for consumers as well.

On the consumer side, we're going to have to understand and become pointedly more aware about how our information is being used online. And we're going to have to accustom ourselves to different security protocols. Remember when folks were up in arms about biometrics and fingerprinting? Today that's mainstream, and it's fair to assume the next wave of biometrics, like facial recognition, is right behind it. But that's not an easy mindset shift for many consumers.

As for our industry, we have a responsibility to embed more sophisticated technologies, such as machine learning, within our products and solutions to strengthen security. Machine learning is quickly becoming a foundational technology.

As a consumer, and as a professional in this marvelous, maddening, frenetic payments industry, I look forward to what 2018 brings us. And I, for one, will be watching my Google Home and refrigerators more closely.

This article first appeared on as part of its ebook titled "Payments 2017: The Year Of...”

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

Other Articles by Karim

Karim Ahmad

Karim Ahmad is EVP of global product & innovation at TSYS, with more than 20 years of experience in financial services and consulting. Most recently, he was a partner at Bain & Company in their payments, financial services and performance-improvement practices. Prior to joining Bain & Company, he served in a variety of roles at the International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group.

He has extensive experience helping banks, payments processors, retailers and technology companies respond to the ongoing disruption of the payments industry. Ahmad earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Vassar College, a Master of Arts from Columbia University and his Master of Business Administration from the Darden School at the University of Virginia.

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