How private is privacy.com really?

How private is privacy.com a card proxy site? Is it more private than paypal? Also what can you do and not do on the site? Like obviously it doesn’t have the privacy of using cash but really what do they track?

Virtual card services like Privacy have pros and cons that you’ll have to weigh.

To preface everything, if your threat model requires anonymity, it’s the wrong solution. It requires your legal name, part of your Social Security number, and your banking information. At best, it is ultimately pseudononymous.

The benefit is that you can use multiple virtual cards to obfuscate your purchase habits from payment processors like Stripe and PayPal, and card networks like Visa and MasterCard. They can otherwise keep records on what you bought using one card. You can also give any billing information to merchants when using a Privacy virtual card, meaning you can pay using a false name and address. Barring side-channel attacks like browser fingerprinting, this could also make it difficult for marketing firms to build a profile on you.

The downside is that using a virtual card service means giving yet another company access to your private information. Privacy does have a reasonable business model of collecting fees from merchants and offering services to businesses. However, the company is actually primarily funded by venture capital investments. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Privacy’s investors have the company sold to a larger company, commercialize more aspects of the service to make more money, or close the company if it fails to live up to their expectations. In essence, the ownership and use of the data Privacy collects from you lies in control of these investors.

In addition, giving private information to any company increases the risk that it falls into wrong hands. The co-founders of Privacy are pretty inexperienced – it’s their first VC-backed company. While they have a healthy number of employees for what they do, I question how they would respond to the disclosure of security vulnerabilities or data breaches. On the upside they use Plaid instead of directly handling banking information themselves. I expect that the most that would come out of a security breach would be transaction history and basic personal information, but not your checking account number.

So in the short term, Privacy does offers benefits if you would like to mitigate the ability for financial and retail companies to market to you despite inherent security risks. In the long term however, those benefits depend on how long the company exists in its current state. The alternative is using a bunch of physical pre-paid debit cards, but that involves a lot of work to maintain as well as plastic.

Personally, I do use Privacy pretty regularly. I’m normally averse to giving another company access to my data. However, my political view is that it’s much more beneficial to shift power away from the payment processors, card networks, and merchants who already possess lots of information on myself to capitalize upon.

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Thanks for the detailed answer! Do you happen to know what is the main difference between Albine Blur and Privacy.com?

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I have not personally used Abine Blur but from what I previously gathered, their virtual cards come as part of their premium offerings including password management and email aliases (a la Anonaddy). Abine has been around longer than Privacy as well.