But uptake has slowed.
The outrageous permissions required by mobile payments apps
A couple of weeks ago I decided to jump into the world of mobile payments. I wanted to see if I could get to a point where most of my transactions are handled through my smartphone.
Mobile payments someday may become routine, but consumer adoption has been slower than expected for a number of reasons. Among them are concerns about data security, slow technology rollouts, and an ever-expanding and confusing mobile payments landscape.
That last one is a real disincentive for many consumers to try mobile payments. I mean, just where do you start?
I did about an hour of online research and decided I'd first try Google Wallet, and then maybe download mobile payment apps for a couple of retailers. Ease myself into this thing before becoming the Mobile Payments Master.
What I learned quickly made me re-think my entire mobile payments future. Whatever concerns I may have about data security, whatever confusion I have about payment platforms, nothing compares to the outrageous apps permissions demanded by the companies authorizing mobile payments. Just check them out below. This is what they demand in return for authorizing you to use their apps.
When you try to download the Google Wallet app, you are presented with a number of apps permissions you must accept in order to proceed. These are the two that jumped out at me (italics mine):
Camera -- Allows the app to take pictures and videos with this camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.
Read your contacts -- Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you've called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals. This permission allows apps to save your contact data, and malicious apps may share contact data without your knowledge.
I don't know about you folks, but I'm not comfortable with either one of these permissions -- Google Wallet needs access to my camera any time it wants in order for me to make mobile payments? I don't think so -- and those are the reasons why I never downloaded Google Wallet. I also wonder if Wallet's slow adoption rate has something to do with these intrusive permissions.
Google Wallet hardly is alone.
I pulled up PayPal's Android app, hit "Install" and was presented with an almost identical list of apps permissions I was required to accept in order to download. PayPal, however, did add this permission:
Retrieve running apps -- Allows the app to retrieve information about currently and recently running tasks. This may allow the app to discover information about which applications are used on the device.
OK, clearly the big mobile platform vendors are all data-grabby. I get it. Si I decided to try some retailer mobile payment apps. Things weren't much better.
Do you crave the convenience of paying for your morning Starbucks run with your smartphone as much as you crave the chain's overpriced caffeinated drinks? Such blissful convenience can be yours, as long as you agree to this permission:
Phone calls -- Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Note that this doesn't allow the app to call emergency numbers.
That last part is big relief! Nobody needs to wake up to the police knocking on their door because you Starbucks app was crank yanking.
No matter, I'll just take my business to Dunkin' Donuts, where no mobile payment app requires unreasonable access. Oh, wait...
Send SMS messages -- Allows the app to send SMS messages. This may result in unexpected charges.
Even though I haven't been in the mobile payments game for long -- in fact, I'm not even in yet -- I do know that "unexpected charges" is not a strong selling point to consumers.
What about one of those new banks created specifically for mobile customers? Well, GoBank's apps permissions are almost identical to those of Google Wallet and PayPal, they also include that cool one from Starbucks that allows it to make calls without you approving or knowing about it. Because, you know, do you want to make mobile payments or not?
The types of personal information we collect and share depend on the product or service you have with us. This information can include:
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