When Google launched its Android phone operating system, it gained the ability to track the movements and activities of millions of gullible people who would eventually be persuaded by “Droid Does” advertising that they needed a Google-powered smartphone.
But spying is addictive, and Google is always looking for ways to do more spying. With Google Wallet, the Monster of Mountain View intends to leverage Android to track what people are buying:
Among other things, Google Wallet will be able to store your credit card information (Google’s launch partners include MasterCard and Citi) as well as loyalty rewards, purchase points, and any saved-up Google Offers that might apply. Then, users who have Near Field Communications (NFC) enabled Android phones will be able to simply whip out their devices when shopping and tap them on electronic payment processors in order to get deals and pay for their goods.
Google is also suggesting that makers of other phones and phone systems (Microsoft, Apple, Research in Motion) could integrate Google Wallet into their own offerings.
But that’s probably just wishful thinking on Google’s part.
Still, with Android as pervasive as it is, it won’t take Google too long to deploy its new spying capabilities. The average life of a phone, even a smartphone, is pretty short. Whether Wallet becomes as ubiquitous as Android remains to be seen. MasterCard is not an exclusive Google partner; it has other irons in the fire as far as the future of payment goes. And embedding credit cards into phones may simply be too uncomfortable for many people. Hopefully, it will be.
There is no particularly good reason why credit cards should be embedded in phones. Next, Google will be signing up governments to make driver’s licenses electronic and embedded in its phones.
Where does this end?
The contents of one’s wallet do not need to be in one’s phone. There are very good reasons for keeping both separate. Foremost is privacy and security. For instance, phones are only going to become more attractive to thieves if they contain more identifying information and means of payment.
Google Wallet provides an insignificant benefit to people who might use it. Like so many other Google products, it is primarily designed to benefit Google, and not users.