Mobile Wallet Privacy Issues

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the introduction of mobile wallets – the idea of paying with nothing but your phone through Near-Field Communication technology. The idea had a slow start, but is starting to take off as more and more people worldwide adopt smart phones. You can read about the quickly growing market at the Sacramento Bee.


There’s a lot of controversy over the idea of putting so much personal information on one device, and rightfully so. All of that information in the hands of the wrong person can be life-ruining. But I truthfully think that this is just a scare that consumers will eventually get over (hey, people were scared of using credit cards at one point).

What if my phone is stolen???

I challenge you to count how many times in a day you reach for your smartphone, whether to check it or just make sure it’s still there (hint: it’s nearly impossible). Now compare that to how many times a day you do the same with your wallet. It’s a large difference.

So, in theory, if you were to misplace your wallet, you’d most likely notice a lot later than you would if it were your cell phone. You would likely be able to cancel your credit cards and protect your information much sooner than you would with a wallet. Especially if all of that information was integrated in one place, say your Apple iTunes account.

What about big scary hackers?

The bigger scare, though, is remote theft. It would be detrimental if someone could access your entire phone’s information, including finances, without the phone ever leaving your hand. But between mobile commerce, banking apps, and your iTunes account, there’s plenty (and in my case, almost all) of your financial information already being accessed by your phone. An NFC chip would merely access an account through the internet, much like when you access your banking information now.

Can companies get my information this way?

Granted, there’s still plenty of room for research and laws to be developed. It’s a long road ahead for mobile wallets, and it will take time to gain some footing. One issue is how the integration of different apps together (like Facebook) could affect your privacy – I don’t think anyone wants Facebook knowing how much they owe MasterCard this month. But this seems to be the wave of the future, and the kinks will inevitable be worked out.

I know that my Bank of America app was life changing. As a college student, there’s plenty of times I’ve had to transfer money instantly to pay for groceries at the check out, or check my balance to decide whether to splurge on dessert at dinner. I can’t even begin to imagine the ease of having my wallet right on my phone. I know it would at least make the line for a beer at Kens a lot shorter!