Meet Privacy, a new startup with a confusing name but an interesting product. Privacy lets you generate a virtual burner card every time you need to enter your credit card number on the web. Your actual credit card number stays safe, and you get more control over your online subscriptions.
Privacy works with a Google Chrome browser extension. After installing the extension, a tiny Privacy icon will appear next to a credit card form when it’s time to pay. When you click the button, the extension automatically generates a new virtual Visa debit card specifically for this website.
Behind the scene, Privacy connects with your bank account so it can withdraw money from your bank account. Right now, Privacy works with the big American banks (Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo), as well as a handful of others. Privacy also has an iOS app in case you’re not in front of your computer.
There are four key features that make Privacy useful. First, it’s more secure than using your real card on the Internet. If you’re ordering a new fishing rod from bestfishingrodever.com, you might want to use an alternative payment method. That’s how PayPal became successful in the first place, but not every website accepts PayPal — and maybe you don’t want to use PayPal anyway.
Second, Privacy works with subscriptions. Two years ago, I remember subscribing to nytimes.com because they sent me a promo offer with two months for $5. Immediately after signing up, I noticed that if you want to unsubscribe, you have to call The New York Times’ customer service (and no, this isn’t happening in 1998). With Privacy, you can just disable your virtual card and The New York Times can’t bill you again.
Third, the service is free. The company makes money by processing transactions. Every time a payment processor charges a card, it gives a small cut to Visa, and a small portion of this cut goes to the card issuer — in this case, Privacy. It’s a volume play, but it looks like Privacy has a small team.
Finally, a Privacy burner card works with any billing address. If you don’t want to give your real address or name to Netflix for instance, Privacy lets you do that. And if you do that, Edward Snowden will be proud of you.