Citing user preference for convenience over security, Mastercard CEO declares data ‘the new oil’

Unlike with fossil fuels, there is a seemingly endless stream of data that companies can collect and profit off of, the chief executive of Mastercard said at a conference this week, while also saying new regulations are necessary to control the ethical use of such valuable data.

“Data is the new oil,” Mastercard President Ajay Banga declared at the Future Investment Initiative in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, according to CNBC. “I am saying it in this country because I believe that the prosperity that oil brought in the last 50 years, data will bring in the next 50, 100 years if you use it the right way.”

Unlike oil, he said, data does not seem to be a finite resource. But there is a question of how to safely and ethically use it.

One reason Banga sees so much value in data is because online consumers prefer convenience over security. That can lead them to share more information than they might otherwise disclose.

Banga sees a growing challenge in collecting data, particularly identity-related information about consumers. He believes new regulation will be necessary to manage the ethics of knowing so much about individuals.

Following Banga’s vision, Mastercard has made a number of moves to leverage consumer data. In July, it acquired artificial intelligence shop Brighterion for an undisclosed sum. That followed the acquisition of NuData, a biometrics and behavioral analytics provider it bought earlier this year.

The credit card provider also unveiled a new biometric payment card featuring an embedded fingerprint sensor in South Africa this April. At the time, Mastercard officials boasted of the “convenience and security” that biometrics provide to consumers.