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I live in Canada. I use Tangerine (formerly ING Direct). Tangerine is the "direct banking" division of Scotiabank. The upside of using Tangerine is that it charges no monthly fees. The downside is that it has no branches or tellers: it only has ATMs, an online-banking website, and a customer-service hotline.

Today I logged into their Android smartphone app for the first time ever. (I'm using version 1.0.11 of the app.) After I entered my username and PIN number, the app (not the operating system) asked me for some sort of consent to note my location in order to help them combat fraud. The app stressed that this consent was optional, and that even if I withheld consent, I could still bank with them as usual. I don't remember exactly what consent it asked for. But I clicked the "agree" button.

I later looked on Tangerine's website to try to find out exactly what I agreed to, but couldn't find any information.

So I tapped the three dots, tapped "More", tapped "Read-Only Settings", and then withdrew my consent. (I guess the "Read-Only Settings" aren't actually always read-only. Another interesting fact: Once you've withdrawn your consent, it looks like it's impossible to restore this consent.)

I no longer remember exactly what I had consented to.

Based on one webpage it looks like perhaps they asked me to agree to some "Location Capture Terms of Use".

Kelly Pike, writing on the Independent Community Bankers of America website, adds:

Location capture, based on usage of a mobile app or other identifiers, is becoming increasingly used by large financial institutions, giving them the ability to tell if a customer is in the same place as his or her credit or debit card.

What, exactly, did Tangerine ask me to agree to, and why? Was it indeed the same thing that Ms. Pike mentioned?

If you have a bank account with Tangerine, and you've never logged into their Android app before, could you please log in and take a photo or screenshot of the question for us?

5

Yes, it was the same thing. The app wants to use a combination of GPS and network location computations to record where your mobile-banking requests are made from. This information is run through a fraud detection engine which tries to recognize unusual/unreasonable patterns of use, so they can check with you to make sure someone else isn't abusing your account. They've been doing this with credit card transactions for years.

Unless you're particularly paranoid about bank staff knowing the pattern of where you use the app from, I think you do want to permit this.

Whether or not you should let other apps access your location information is a judgement call you'll have to make.

  • Ah, okay. Even after reading Ms. Pike's article, I didn't get it; but now I'm starting to understand. So is Tangerine trying to figure out whether or not fraud artists are using their app? Or are they trying to use mobile-app usage logs to detect fraudulent use of their debit cards? Or both? – unforgettableid Jul 30 '15 at 15:33
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    @unforgettableid It sounds like they're using it to check for fraudulent use of the app/device, but in the same way they do for cards. ("Hey, she always uses this in Toronto but she's just made three logins from India!") How useful this is compared to the card system is another question! – Andrew Jul 30 '15 at 18:05
  • I agree this seems worth allowing. I still have not figured out why the 'flashlight' app wants location information. It's not getting it. – Spehro Pefhany Jul 31 '15 at 3:46
  • @SpehroPefhany: Maybe it has some library linked into it — maybe an advertising library such as Google AdMob — which wants to know your location. Perhaps you can use a tool such as "App Ops" to restrict your flashlight app, or can use a different flashlight app instead. – unforgettableid Jul 31 '15 at 15:58
  • I have a neighbor who works in mobile ads. If you talk to him on the street (vs. in his job), he will tell you to never allow your location to be tracked by an app unless it's essential to the service and you're consciously making a cost-benefit trade. Remember that any company who seems to be giving you software for "free" is doing so because the software is not their product: Your information is their product, which they will typically sell and exploit. Up to you if you think that any potential fraud protection is worth the trade here with your bank, but generally be VERY skeptical. – user32479 Apr 11 '16 at 21:54
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In addition to using the app to track spending patterns to try to detect fraud (which they already do when you purchase anything on your card), they use it to match the location between you and your card. For example, if your card is used in one province, but you and your phone are in another, that is a clue that the card was used fraudulently.

It would only be able to detect a certain type of fraud: a stolen card, or a cloned card. It wouldn't work to detect fraudulent online purchases, which could be made from anywhere.

It is up to you whether you want the bank to have continuous access to your location everyday. You can see how it would be a useful tool to detect fraud, but it certainly gives up some privacy in the process.

Remember that you aren't generally liable for fraudulent purchases, so enabling this might make fraud detected a little quicker, but it won't ultimately save you any money. At best, it could be a little more convenient if fraud is detected quickly/more accurately.

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