Opinion: Are new ways to pay really safer?

Albert Fisler is a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Albert Fisler

Beginning this month, the PulseWallet will go on sale for businesses as a new way to collect payment from customers.  The premise behind the PulseWallet is that a consumer will be able to simply scan their hand on the machine, which reads the unique pattern of veins beneath the skin of one’s palm.  The patterns cannot be replicated, and the machine needs blood flow through the veins in order to read them.  This allows the machine to identify the individual person and permit them access to different credit cards they own.

PulseWallet’s website, PulseWallet.com, promises this will make transactions easier and more secure, and assures the sign-up process will be painless as well.  After making a purchase, one must simply use a normal credit card to pay, have their palm scanned, and then enter a valid phone number.  Subsequently, that same customer will be able to shop at that store without any credit cards, and be able to pay by scanning their palms.  PulseWallet uses a process called “tokenization,” to protect sensitive data and retrieve payment information without exposing or sending credit card numbers, according to the company website.  

This new machine also comes with an app for your smartphone, as well as software for the businesses that use it.  These services allow businesses and customers alike to keep track of expenses, even giving the option for a digital receipt, which will decrease costs of production and save trees. 

However, this emerging technology worries me as currency moves toward a totally digital existence.  Bitcoins were first introduced five years ago, although many people either seem unaware of them, or don’t fully understand how digital currency operates.  Nevertheless, the idea of converting money into a digital existence and removing its tangible form is rather frightening.  If banks would have control over, as well as access to this currency, it scares me to think what might happen if I were to miss a payment, or generally upset them in any way.  I can only imagine how easy it might be for a bank to deny me access to my money, or even transfer funds elsewhere so it would appear that they never existed.  

In a way, I am already used to my money being intangible, which also alarms me.  Being paid in written checks, only to be deposited into my bank account so that I can use my debit card is all I have ever known. Even something as simple as a Kent State meal plan is an embodiment of our society’s practice of becoming increasingly digital, and less tangible with our currency and payment methods. Indeed, having never seen this money, it’s easy to spend more on food sold on campus.  

Regardless, alternative currency and payment methods are still in their developing stages, and PulseWallets are just the tip of the iceberg.