Why credit & debit cards should no longer bear a name.

The central point here is that a person having malicious intent needs only to know your name to be well on the way to obtaining much other personal information from various computer systems. Therefore, people should not be put in the position, in libraries or supermarkets or elsewhere, of being forced to display a card bearing their name in order to obtain goods or services.

My interest in the future of credit cards was sparked by the ease with which I was able to obtain names, addresses and library ticket numbers from book issue computers in Devon libraries. I wrote to Devon County Council in the following terms: (text adapted from intern2.htm in library dispute section) and have never received an adequate response.

"If at a supermarket check-out a girl proffers a credit card and I can read it, then I know her name and she has in effect consented. Using a search technique on the Internet or using commercially available CD ROMs, I may then be able to find her address within seconds and ascertain if she lives alone. This is made difficult if her surname is Smith but a forename can narrow the search considerably. Few people are aware of how extensively privacy has already been compromised in the UK using data provided by Local Authorities."

"Recently, there was a relevant High Court decision in favour of privacy and this is leading to an overhaul of electoral roll access in libraries and elsewhere. (see electoral rolls.htm  for details)

"The discussion here is centred upon availability of details to a third party on library computer screens with no option on the part of borrowers to deny access to their personal data. There are problems even in having names written on library tickets and I shall be suggesting a review of procedures nationally. I believe credit cards may be redesigned also. The real problems will start when medical records are computerised by local amateurs and obtained by third parties."

Given the ease with which personal data is now obtainable (and may continue to be so even with inadequate reform of the electoral register system) the safest course of action would be for banks to offer customers cards which bore only numbers. With the introduction of signature-less cards into the UK, there would seem to be no good reason why this should not be done.

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