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Blippy gets an API and a way to track groceries

Blippy now lets third-party developers tap into its user data feed. It's also partnered with Safeway to track what you're buying at the grocery store.

SAN FRANCISCO--What a difference a few weeks can make.

At the Finovate conference, which is a biannual gathering of financial start-ups, Blippy co-founder Philip Kaplan put on a brave face, demoing new features and announcing that the service was launching an API for application developers. Kaplan's presentation came just a few weeks after it was discovered that the company had inadvertently leaked the credit card information of five of its users to Google's search engine.

However, privacy is still very much on the mind of the company, which posts details to its Web site about what purchases people make. To that end, users can now hide the amount they paid for something, as well as set the service to require their approval on a per-purchase basis in order to post anything to their profile. In some ways these adjustments go against the spirit of the site, which is to make spending more social, though its power tools for tracking spending can still be used even with these privacy features enabled.

As for the API, it's been designed to let third parties tap into a user's stream of purchases without giving those third parties access to actual account numbers. "Blippy goes to great lengths to make sure that everything with regard to the API is secure," said Kaplan. "It uses OAuth, and users only share the things that they want to share. So, for example, I don't want to share credit card numbers, but I do want to share the pair of shoes I just bought."

The API can tell third-party developers what the user has bought, how much it cost, and show a listing of other items they've purchased--all of which is tracked by the service. One of the examples Kaplan gave for how this information could be used takes advantage of a new partnership with Safeway supermarkets. When Blippy users link up their Safeway Club Card, Safeway sends the entire purchase to Blippy, along with whatever items the user had purchased. A developer taking advantage of Blippy's API could then build a recipe finder using those ingredients.

Blippy users will soon be able to link up their Safeway Club Card to share food purchases with other Blippy users and applications through a new API. Blippy/CNET

Kaplan also explained that the same API could allow a coffee shop to create a passive loyalty program that would track user purchases from their Blippy account, then award them a tenth coffee on their next trip. Such a system could replace a card the customer has to carry around with them.

Blippy's API is not open to everyone yet. Instead, the company is taking applications from developers as well as asking them about the app they intend to build. Only developers who are accepted to the program will be given access to the APIs, and like anything else on the site, users will then need to give each individual app permission to access their personal spending data stream.