Privacy service lets you use 'burner' cards for online transactions

privacy exits beta

Worried about all the places online your debit card information is stored? A new service called Privacy lets you use virtual or “burner” cards for all your online transactions, making your financial details anonymous on the internet.

Privacy, which has been in a closed beta since March 2016, is a free service that needs to be installed as a Chrome extension. It’s an online-only service that works with Visa debit cards, and all you need to do is link your bank account when you sign up.

The extension will recognize any time you’re on a checkout page. You’ll see Privacy’s icon where you need to add your card information — click on the logo and you’ll get the option to create a new virtual card for the service. These cards can be reused with the retailer, or terminated after a one-time transaction.

What happens when you create a card? Privacy generates a random debit card number, security code, and expiration date. These are tied to merchants if you opt to reuse a card. The anonymous debit card number means you can use any name and billing address you want. This way, no one but you has your card information.

“It boils down to giving control back to you as the consumer,” Bo Jiang, CEO and co-founder of Privacy, tells Digital Trends. “You can definitely limit subscriptions … you don’t have to worry about data breaches anymore if such-and-such merchant gets hacked.”

Jiang says Privacy’s anonymity also protects you from debit card fraud and identity theft. For example, someone who accesses your virtual card information but can only use it with HBO Now will find it useless. The service also makes disputing a charge a piece of cake — just fill out a form and the information is sent to Visa.

Once the card is charged, the money is withdrawn from your account by Privacy. You can also add a charge limit to your card per merchant, to control spending at various online retailers; and you can pause or cancel cards at any time.

The company is able to provide the service for free as it takes a cut of the interchange fee with its issuing bank as well as Visa.

Along with its official launch, the company is also launching a Rewards program that would offer cash back to your account. Jiang says the program would feature “refer-a-friend” discounts at partnered retailers, and more. Privacy also just raised a seed round of $2.2 million in funding led by Index Ventures.

Privacy is available to everyone now. Support for Firefox, Safari, Android Pay, and Apple Pay are in the works. You can also download the iOS app to generate burner cards and view your transactions, just like the web app.