The evolution of mobile technology has been very exciting to observe, especially in the local commerce space. As I covered in my last piece we are finally starting to see things come to life with the ability to pay for everyday products and services using mobile devices.
But overall one has to ask if this evolution will actually be safe for consumers?
There seems to be a splintering – a bifurcation in the market – where on one side app developers are continually making it easier to accomplish real world tasks by developing a more personalized in-app experience and on the other side one finds an increasingly insecure environment for our personal information due to those very same highly personalized applications.
A sense of tug-of-war is starting to break out. So which side will win?
I believe with continual innovation and careful forethought both can thrive and be present in these newly fashioned local commerce experiences. With that in mind, here are a few areas that will require extra consideration and attention as we barrel ahead:
A Secure Platform
First of all, a new platform must emerge and be put in place between any app and any identity so as to be a layer of protection between technology and individual. Imagine a personal (secure) API where one can quickly connect the devices they use with the appropriate software platforms and applications that house their consumer information. This connection would allow any application access to the specific personal information the consumer deems appropriate during a commercial transaction.
Similar to the blockchain — the backbone of the Bitcoin crypto-currency ‚ it should be publicly available and open source for all developers to build upon. This would allow for openness and innovation without any one central corporation in control or ownership of the resulting data.
Furthermore, the system should function similar to Bitcoin, where ownership and operation of Bitcoin doesn’t require personally Identifiable Information, and this protective layer would be pseudonymous in nature and function solely for the two entities to communicate and complete the desired transaction. In this instance, PII would not be hanging out on the internet so freely accessible, which is currently one of the biggest problems on the internet.
Most importantly, control of access should be fully in the hands of the consumer, where they have the ability to quickly sever any connection to the platform with a touch of a button if something should go amiss, or when a device has been lost or compromised.
More Instant Gratification
Secondly, if the last few years is any indication, our appetites for instant gratification will continue to grow. Uber and other instant gratification apps are training consumers to expect on-demand commerce — everywhere and at all times. Black cars, taxis, fast food, alcohol, dog walkers, massages, laundry services and scores of other products and services can now be “summoned” instantly using a mobile device.
Knowingly or unknowingly, consumers are voting with their dollars and creating user profiles with PII on many different mobile commerce platforms – and then forgetting about it – possibly placing themselves in a compromised position. Given the current state of online security this is not optimal. More consideration needs to be placed on how secure these applications really are and how we — as consumers — have control to their access.
Think for a minute how many different places your current credit cards are sitting online and/or on your mobile apps?
Right… and then remember how much hesitation there was with those same cards 10-15 years ago with early ecommerce sites. Yet, of course we know those concerns thawed out over time as we became more familiar with the ecommerce shopping process and discovered advancements in card processing technology allowing for us to safely make transactions and store our cards with online retailers.
Yet mobile is a new ballgame. And this “I want it now” urge will not go away. In fact I believe it will only increase — so more attention and development is required in this area as well.
The Privacy Pendulum Will Swing Back
Lastly, it’s safe to say it has it been quite a year to remember as an online consumer. The realization of the NSA security breaches scared a lot of people and the credit card security breaches of many major retailers have proven the current system is, in fact, broken.
My anticipation is society at large isn’t going to accept this awful consumer reality anymore and it’s become clear something needs to be done.
The privacy and security pendulum will swing back the other direction towards more carefully crafted, thoughtful, and secure technology. Why? Because executives and developers are consumers too. More segregated platforms will be built. More APIs need to be developed, which will allow for safer communication between each platform in the commercial equation. More thorough product testing and investments in more secure “clouds” will be required by third party auditors.
This, or we need to ask ourselves what type of world we want to live in? Do I want to stay frozen in fear the NSA knows each and every place I make purchases each day? Should they know who I talk to on the phone and why? Should they really be able to see where I go and what path I travel each day just by having access to my location data on my mobile device?
Unfortunately, these are the realities right now. But just like everything, times will change. It is up to us – the innovators – to take back control of our technology and create a world where it’s not only more difficult to breach, but also less incentive to do so.
It’s up to us to attack these and other technical challenges so we can create the new future we want to live in.
Nick Hughes is director of business development for Knotis. He previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital transactions into the physical realm via Bitcoin ATM’s. In addition to those projects, Nick is co-founder and the host of Founders RAW, a multi-media platform focused on highlighting stories of startup founders and their companies.