Smart cards do hold out the promise of convenience - a bank in your pocket, as the saying goes - but banks that offer them or are thinking about doing so must be mindful of public perceptions that these powerful devices are a privacy risk.

Developers and marketers of the latest generation of chip cards swear up and down that their technology gives the public more privacy safeguards than ever: passwords and personal identification numbers are needed to unlock the devices, firewalls guard one application from another, and biometric identification can be placed on a card to ensure it is used by the right person.

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