What could happen if our itemized personal transaction data became openly accessible?
For our Urban Fictions class, we were challenged to think about the implications of our personal data being tracked in increasing detail. I envisioned a near-future world where our financial transactions were itemized and openly available. In this speculative world, Cuisintel is a company that constructs accurate taste profiles of every individual based on personal food purchase data and food review analysis. While there are many use cases for such "taste intelligence", I specifically elaborate on the use of this data by Paytron, which specializes in restaurant management software. The taste profiles power Paytron's flagship personalized smart menus, as well as ordering interfaces for wait staff to better understand diner preferences. Finally, I describe a scenario where online grocers abuse Cuisintel's taste intelligence to conduct discriminatory pricing on their food items, overcharging individual consumers based on their food preferences.
- Product strategy
- Information architecture
- UX and UI design
- Web design
- Front-end development
- Print design
Itemized Financial Transactions
Today, our financial transactions appear on our bank statements with only the merchant description and the total sum for each transaction. The format of this data is governed by an international standard, the ISO 8583. But POS and payment systems such as ShopKeep and Square for retailers already track every item within a transaction. This itemized data, known as Level III data, has just not been shared by the majority of merchants.
For this project, I imagined a not-so-distant future where a revised standard, ISO 8583:2020, mandates that all merchants provide Level III financial transaction data. Our purchase history would not only show merchants and totals, but also robust data on every item we purchase.
How might we use itemized financial transaction data in this future world? Our itemized food purchases could paint a pretty accurate picture of our dietary preferences. Only order soy milk, or purchase Lactaid regularly? This would indicate an avoidance of lactose with a high degree of accuracy. Never purchase meat? It’s highly probable you’re vegetarian. We can combine this data with explicit expressions of our food preferences in the form of the reviews we write on sites like Yelp and Foursquare.
I envisioned a company, Cuisintel, that forms around the creation of taste profiles for every individual. Through an agreement with the major financial transaction platforms, Cuisintel is given access to everyone’s itemized transaction data, and filters out the food-related data to construct a robust taste intelligence platform. This platform will be utilized by discovery apps to tailor recommendations, by the hospitality industry to provide personalized guest experiences, even by dating apps to match individuals with similar taste profiles.
To fully realize this vision, I created Cuisintel’s marketing site, complete with use cases and a description of the platform.
One particularly interesting use case of Cuisintel’s taste intelligence is in restaurant management systems. How might knowing what people like and avoid help smoothen the experience of ordering food at a restaurant? A fictional company, Paytron, emerged from this thought. Paytron’s flagship product is its smart menus. Activated by TouchID, each menu is tailored to the individual diner, filtering out dishes that the diner would avoid. Diners can also sort dishes to see which ones they would like best, and get alerted to ingredients that they may want to request removed or changed.
Paytron also helps the wait staff provide more personalized service. As the smart menus get activated, the waiter’s own ordering interface gives them an overview of the diners’ preferences. Wait staff can tap into each diner to reveal more details, including special requests they should be alert to.
Discriminatory Pricing Scandal
Of course, such unfettered access to our personal financial transaction data could inspire misuses. Through a slew of negative press coverage, I painted the picture of a scandal that erupts when the public discovers that food retailers have been pricing their groceries differently depending on their dietary preferences. Magazine covers for Bloomberg Businessweek and the New Yorker, as well as a WSJ piece, detailed the aftermath of the scandal, as grocers agreed to a massive settlement in response to scrutiny by the authorities.