FIRMS must tread lightly around the subject of their customers’ weight. It is a sensitive subject for many. Still, a lot of organisations would like to be able to size up those who use their services.

MasterCard, a credit-card company, has filed a patent application for what it describes as “a system, method, and computer-readable storage medium configured to analyse the physical size of payment accountholders based on payment transactions, and allowing a transportation provider to apply the physical size of payment accountholders to seating”. In plain English, the firm plans to estimate its customers’ size and weight based on their clothing and shoe purchases. It could then transmit this information to airlines (and other transportation providers, such as rail and bus companies) which might use it to assign seats.

Exactly how airlines would deploy this information is not known. In its application, MasterCard takes a charitable interpretation, writing that “for the comfort of their passengers, transportation providers should avoid seating physically large strangers next to each...Continue reading