Posted by Olivia Young
“Cash, credit or…smartphone?”
Get ready, fellow consumers: we might start hearing this question sooner than we think. Yesterday, Google added yet another product to its growing techno-anthology: meet Google Wallet, a program for smartphones that employs RFID technology to replace your plastic.
With a simple wave of your phone past a MasterCard PayPass symbol, your credit card is automatically charged for your purchase – no more credit cards, no more bulky wallets. (Watch a Wallet tutorial here.)
Google Wallet is under limited release, only available on Sprint’s Nexus S 4G phone by Google, but service will eventually extend to more smartphones and carriers. The program currently supports Citi MasterCard and Google prepaid cards. In true Google fashion, the company also plans to extend the Wallet to other credit card companies in the near future.
More than a diet for your packed wallet, Google’s newest project boasts of SingleTap, a feature that lets you pay, redeem offers and earn loyalty credit with – you guessed it – one tap. Google Wallet also syncs automatically with your Google Offers, eliminating the need to hunt for coupons in your purse.
Of course, the underlying question surrounding Google Wallet regards its security, and the Wallet isn’t the first product to allow for wave-and-go technology in smartphones. Of course, Google has covered all the standard bases, including the Wallet’s mysterious “Secure Element:”
Think of the Secure Element as a separate computer, capable of running programs and storing data…the chip is designed to only allow trusted programs on the Secure Element itself to access the payment credentials stored therein, (Google.com).
But is Google Wallet really secure?
RFID technology is nothing new: it’s been adapted to read cards, like the photo above, and used to make purchases via smartphone. Google maintains that Wallet users are doubly protected because traditional wallets can be stolen, easily opened and used. The Wallet, on the other hand, requires an unlock code and features its “Secure Element.”
Even so, I’m wary of the Wallet.
What if you lose your phone, either through theft or mishap? When someone steals your credit card, you can, at least, immediately dial your credit card company from your cell. How will you report your stolen credit card if your credit card is your phone?
Maybe I’m being overly sensible; it wouldn’t be the first time. But there’s something unsettling about my phone and wallet rolled up into one – extremely valuable – device.
So, what do you think about Google Wallet? Is this the next logical move for the devices that already do so much for us, or is it a step back in personal security?