Are your credit cards safe in the hands of e-commerce chatbots?

October 4, 20174 Minute Read

Enter almost any modern business’s website and it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll encounter e-commerce chatbots. They’re practically running rampant, but there are big-business reasons for why they’re multiplying like bunnies. Fuelled by artificial intelligence, e-commerce chatbots are part of a transition businesses are going through to automate their business processes and any systems designed to support customer service.

In layman’s terms, these chatbots simulate conversations to simplify requests. Instead of learning how to properly navigate a company’s website to, say, track down a product, a user can simply ask the chatbot. The efficiency and simplicity of this way of doing business has caused the chatbot boom net-wide. As they become commonplace, customers begin to expect it—and the lightning-fast response times they need.

But just because a technology’s taking off due to convenience hardly makes it safe. With huge breaches becoming more prevalent, customers—and the IT pros creating these bots—need to up their data privacy concerns. When’s the last time you cleared a conversation you had with a bot? At any point did you give your approval for it to potentially sell your information?

Did I ask for a digital salesperson?

Back in 2011, Gartner projected that 85 percent of our customer interactions will be completely devoid of humans by 2020—and we’re right on track. But the convenience chatbots bring to the table can lure customers into a false sense of security. Playing the role of digital salesperson, anyone can have their own personal chatbot take the leg work out of online shopping. In the end, you hand over your personal information, without really knowing where it will go.

We’re expected to share our credit card information with nearly every online store we want to buy something from—but any one of these stores could be the next victim of a data breach that leaks that credit card information online. Data breaches can happen to anyone whose security is not up to par, on or offline.

Hackers don’t discriminate, so businesses of all kinds are prime targets. Take the Chipotle attack that resulted in “most, but not all restaurants” losing customer’s track data, which can include the cardholder’s name, card number, expiration data, and verification code. K-Mart and Target were both victims of similar attacks, which ended in hefty settlements.

Can e-commerce chatbots protect your information?

One of the key advantages in the shift towards e-commerce chatbots lies in the layers of abstraction they add to any transaction. The chatbot can store your credit card information instead of the merchant, eliminating the risk of accumulating credit cards. Acting as a firewall, chatbots can even spawn a transient bot for each transaction to securely and anonymously interact with the merchant bot, without ever exchanging the credit card information.

This lets consumers shop from multiple retailers without worrying as much about how many companies out there have their credit card information on file. By reducing the surfaces of attack, the integrity of the data is much safer. From the IT decision-maker’s perspective, this means they’re less likely to be liable for potentially millions of dollars in settlements if that data is exfiltrated—making the shift towards chatbots a simple one.

From the consumer’s perspective, there are massive benefit as well. A chatbot can automatically scour merchants for the best deals, keep the shelves in your kitchen stocked by automatically re-purchasing items, and abstract away the need for convenience and selection from a merchant, squaring up on quality and price, the two things the consumer is ultimately the most interested in.

Give me your digits

TL;DR: Your personal data’s actually safer with e-commerce chatbots than it is with umpteenth merchants you’re buying from, no matter what merchant it is. Any online seller could be the next unfortunate recipient of a data breach. But that’s not a green light to eliminate buyer caution. The creator of the e-commerce chatbot service is held responsible for securing sensitive credit card data, and is free to take whatever approach they deem necessary. That’s right, IT: It’s up to us.

By ensuring you’re compliant with federal and local data security regimes as the creator of a chatbot, you can minimize the legal surfaces of attack in the event of a data breach. The most successful creators of e-commerce chatbots will be those who focus not only on the abilities of their artificial intelligence, but also hold their security to a world-class standard. Be transparent with customers about what’s happening to their data with your chatbots, and invoke Mad-Eye Moody when it comes to security. “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

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