Join Us On Wesabe

Wesabe is one of those crafty community-based web 2.0 sites that is both helpful and intuitive. Why is the Consumerist telling you about it? Because it’s about your money and how you spend it. According to Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing, and who also sits on Wesabe’s Advisory Board):

“The service anonymizes your financial data and then compares it to others’ and figures out ways that you can save money right away, and worked into it is a bunch of community stuff for people who are figuring out how to spend smarter. It’s a little like Flickr for your money, or social Consumerist.”

Social Consumerist!? Cory, are we not social? Just because we don’t have a Katamari Demacy themed knitting circle doesn’t mean we’re not friendly. One of Wesabe’s features is the ability to create and set goals, for example:

• Buy A House
• Get A Macbook
• Pay Off Credit Cards

To prove we’re a social people, we’ve started our own Wesabe goal and tagged it “Consumerist.” Join us on Wesabe and add the goal “Be A Smarter Consumer.” Then we can share tips and tricks and be very web 2.0. Full disclosure, the site does require you to upload your financial data, but the privacy policy seems very fair and as far as risk/benefit Wesabe seems like a good deal. You should, however, make sure to read all the policies and make the decision for yourself.

Let’s see what we can do with Wesabe. Together. —MEGHANN MARCO

Wesabe [Official Website]
Wesabe: community money-saving service [BoingBoing]

Comments

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  1. jcj7161 says:

    sounds like a commercial–come on gizmodo errrr comsumerist /JJ you will let this post through…I hope other wise the consumerist has no meaning…go look in the mirror

  2. I’m a bit perplexed as to why Cory Doctorow himself is throwing weight behind this kind of a startup. As Cory is somebody whom I would consider to be kind of a privacy rights advocate on the web I’m positive that our financial data is more than likely secure but on the other hand this seems like a rather large step for somebody who sings the praises of anonymity.

    As the website is web 2.0 oriented, then there is no doubt that one of the big back-end aspects for a revenue stream here will be anonymous data mining. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally sold on the concept, but it just seems like an awkward foray for Cory. The potential for harm that a website with this kind of information, leaked into the wrong hands, is far greater than the potential benefits.

    Since the website has made it very clear that they do not intend to sell ads at any point (conflict of interest), then I want some sort of up front disclosure into how exactly they plan to generate revenue with their start-up. If it’s via anonymous data mining then I’m fine with that but I would rather know from the get-go and neither Cory nor the website via the FAQs seems to address this simple question.

  3. acohn says:

    I had questions, too, about the privacy measures that this site would take and its revenue model, so I wrote the following message to the co:

    >I’m curious about Wesabe, but I have a couple of concerns that I hope you
    >can address. First, if you don’t accept ads, how will you make money to
    >stay around – subscriptions?
    >
    >Second, are you any more or less vulnerable than a bank to divulging
    >members’ information? It seems as if anti-terrorism laws make it easy for
    >any of the alphabet soup agencies (IRS, DHS, FBI, etc.) to present you with
    >a subpoena that requires you to turn over a member’s information.

    Here’s what the company founder and Chairman of the Board wrote back:

    Thanks much for writing. We added the revenue model question to our FAQ after you wrote on Saturday: . You are right that we are doing a subscription model, but we’ll always offer a free membership for people who want basic services and up to 3 uploaded accounts. The Pro membershipfor $4.99 a month, will allow up to 12 uploaded accounts and other services (for instance, IM/SMS messaging, shared accounts with a spouse/partner, and so on). We’re currently offering free Pro memberships for 2007 to anyone who uploads data in 2006 (since our service gets more valuable to users when we have more data, we wanted to offer this to the people helping us seed the database).

    The answer to your second question is that I don’t know yet, but I can say two things that may help.

    One, we have tried to set things up so that we are less vulnerable to these requests — basically, that it’s such a pain or completely impossible to get good identifiable data out of us that the organizations you mention would have an easier time asking three or four banks for your data than they would asking us. Here are some of the things we’ve done on this front:

    * We mask identifiable information uploaded to us. A determined investigator could correlate any one account (your transaction pattern is probably quite identifiable if someone knows who you are — where you ate last night, who pays you and how much, etc.), but finding one account in our system is deliberately hard. I think this is a weak defense, but still better than what an investigator would find at a bank.

    * We separate out any usernames, passwords, and public names from accounts. We refer to this as our ‘privacy wall’, and it essentially means that there is no association in our database between a username and an account unless that user is logged in. (If you’re comfortable talking about hashing techniques I’m happy to explain in more detail.) I think this is a good defense, but not perfect given the bullet above.

    * We do not have a way for users to enter bank usernames or passwords into our web site. Your bank usernames and passwords are kept on your own machine, encrypted via the Wesabe Uploader. This also means the Wesabe database does not contain bank usernames, which could be used for identification. I think this is an strong defense for these credentials.

    We’re planning to do more — as much as we can — to come up with ideas similar to these to protect our users from all sorts of privacy and security risks, including those you ask about.

    Two, I believe I care a lot more about the issue than the normal bank/credit card company executive, and I have a lot of say about this in the company. That’s not the same kind of defense as strong encryption, but I believe it matters in other ways. I personally (speaking as a company founder and as Chairman of the Board) would never allow us to turn over data I felt was unjustly or unfairly requested unless and until we had exhausted all of our legal options to prevent that. I believe that companies which have complied with government requests unthinkingly or without considering the legality or fairness of the request are doing a disservice to their users, their companies, and the world in general.

    All of that said, we are a US company and will obey US law as we are required to do. I certainly can’t promise there is no risk — like I say, we haven’t been tested on this yet and I am not an expert on how to deal with the organizations you’re asking about. I can tell you my intentions and the precautions we’ve taken, which I’ve tried to do above. If you have questions beyond that, please let me know.

    Regards,
    Marc Hedlund
    support@wesabe.com

  4. acohn: That is awesome and kudos to Marc for being so helpful.

  5. marcwesabe says:

    Hey, all,

    Thanks much for the link and I love the Consumerist goal. By all means, go to town with that.

    One correction: we do *not* require you to upload your financial data to us. You are welcome to, and we provide tools that we think help people get control of their money, but if you don’t want to do that, you’re welcome to use our tips, goals, and reports for free. We currently require a user account to see these, but we’re going to open those parts of the site to everyone, without an account, in the near future.

    Hope this helps and feel free to drop me a line with any questions you might have: marc@wesabe.com.

  6. William Mize says:

    JD Roth over at Get Rich Slowly, has a great article on Wesabe. And again, Marc was kind enough to come by and allay any privacy fears that came up amongst readers. Pretty remarkable in and of itself.

    I’ve uploaded data and tried it, but ultimately it looks great but my excel spreadsheet accomplishes more of what I need.

  7. x23 says:

    • Buy A House … DONE!
    • Get A Macbook … MacBook Pro! DONE!
    • Pay Off Credit Cards … never had any! DONE!

    so what do i win anyway?