If you own a credit card, chances are you've heard about Falcon, the all-seeing technology that monitors your purchases and looks out for signs of fraud. Despite the name, it's not actually a cybernetic bird or the world's most financially-savvy car. In reality, it's a complex neural network "held in secure servers at separate, top-secret locations".
That's how a similar system, employed by NAB, has been described in a recent article in The Age. According to the piece, it (or more accurately, The Sunday Age) was the first to gain access to one of the facilities where the magic happens and, as you might expect, it's not much to look at. Not that a row of servers would have been particularly exciting, either.
But that's where the work gets done. The neural network doesn't just watch out for the obvious and outrageous, such as mysterious charges from a far-off country or $1000 spent on novelty toothpicks. It learns from your particular spending habits and makes judgements based on your previous activities.
A 99-point scoring system is used for each purchase, so humans can immediately see what should take top priority. According to Visa's risk management head Ian McKindley, these agents have the ability to view real-time transactions and, if necessary, shut then down.
The piece ends somewhat ominously — it's not just credit cards being targeted by scammers now. With phones and online technologies coming to the fore, providing us with new ways to part with our cash, we'll eventually have to develop new systems to watch for unusual behaviour and, if required, act.
The question is how much power will be given to these systems? Are you happy to wait for a human to double-check suspicious transactions, or would you prefer automatic safeguards to kick in at a moment's notice, even if it results in the odd inconvenience?