Blippy opens new social networking frontier, broadcasting your purchases

TORONTO — Welcome to the new frontier of social networking, which asks for your credit card number, banking information and any online shopping passwords you’ve accumulated.

TORONTO — Welcome to the new frontier of social networking, which asks for your credit card number, banking information and any online shopping passwords you’ve accumulated.

It’s called Blippy and, after a much-hyped beta-testing period, the website went live to the world Thursday, offering to broadcast all your purchases for everyone to see.

Call it conspicuous consumption for the social media age.

After users submit their credit card or debit card number, Blippy automatically posts transaction data, which can also be cross-posted to Twitter.

Each post lists the business where a purchase was made and how much was spent. More detail can be shared in a comment area.

One of the trail-blazing Canadians on Blippy posted a $9.02 purchase from HomeSense and then elaborated that the item was a wine decanter. The $2.25 he spent at Laura Secord was for a chocolate apple, $16.94 at Toys Toys Toys was for a teddy bear, and he spent $20.62 at a Korean restaurant on New Year’s Day.

Despite the eyebrow-raising concept, thousands of users have signed up, the website says, and Twitter CEO Evan Williams is reportedly among the investors who have bought into the idea. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based site’s owners insist their high-tech encryption will protect data from being stolen or reused.

“In theory I would suggest people wouldn’t be comfortable with it … but the weird part about it is (Blippy) had an enormous interest in their beta and I’m not sure how to read that,” said Mark Evans, a Toronto-based social media strategist.

“The only way to explain it is that we’re living in this kind of share everything, everything-is-public age, and people are just riding on the bandwagon.

“Internet users on the leading or bleeding edge are … always out for something new, they’re never satisfied with what they got. They’re always expecting something better and shinier around the corner, and I think Blippy falls in that category.”

Evans said Blippy may be another example of how social media is exposing a major generation gap in how privacy is defined.

“Maybe I’m old school, maybe these services aren’t aimed at my demographic, maybe I just don’t buy into the fact that my private life is public,” he said.

“One argument is that privacy is dead, and that may be overly dramatic … but I think we’re living at a time when having a very public life is becoming kind of the norm for many, many, many people, especially young people who have never really had private lives. … They don’t know a world without Facebook.”

Eighteen-year-old Internet entrepreneur Brian Wong personifies the privacy-is-dead argument. He didn’t flinch at entering his data into Blippy on Thursday and was already a user of a similar Vancouver-based website

“I’m a huge online guy, my entire life is online,” said Wong, who created the Twitter spinoff and was recently hired to work for in San Francisco.

“I feel secure (using Blippy) because if something really gets screwed up with my credit cards (the issuers) have been really good about telling me it’s been compromised. And I’m not the type of guy that likes to lock down all my information,” he added.

“I’m that generation that just doesn’t care about my privacy. My life is super online and I really don’t feel (nervous) to put my credit card information into Blippy.”

Wong said he thinks Blippy could still use some tweaks but he envisions it evolving into a useful mobile app that would give users information about the prices of products in their area.

“Say someone just bought something in the area and I think that’s a really good deal — bam, I’m going to go buy that now,” he said.

“The thing about making purchases social is it also allows recommendations that allow further purchases to be made, and that’s valuable for me. If I buy something, someone may come along and say, ’Hey check this out too because this is also good.’ ”

If Blippy really makes sense for anyone it’s for marketers and advertisers who will gain access to detailed consumer data, Evans said. Blippy’s terms of use acknowledge that purchasing data may be used to display targeted ads on people’s accounts, and all their purchasing details could also be made available to third parties.

“For marketers and retailers it’s fantastic because it gives them even more intelligence so they can target consumers, Evans said.