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Facebook Payments is a useful security risk

What?

Some of you may be old enough to remember the huge paradigm shift that came with PayPal back in the day. When Musk and Co introduced the PayPal idea, it was controversial and revolutionary and flew in the face of conventional ways of doing business. Sort of like Musk’s current Tesla Motors and SpaceX endeavours do. PayPal wasn’t a bank, wasn’t a merchant gateway, and it wasn’t a monetary exchange. It contained parts of those things, but not all of them.

And it changed the Internet forever.

Facebook has done similar, though less obviously dramatic things. It’s changed how we interact online and done so in a fundamental way. Imagine going without Facebook as a means of communication, marketing, etc. for a few days. Your Internet experience would be very different than it is now.

Recently, Facebook announced that they were testing a new plan called Facebook Payments, which everyone at the time thought was going to be a “PayPal killer.” Turns out, it’s not. Instead, it’s just another way to easily fill in your information into the huge forms we’re always filling out when we shop online. The ubiquitous and often-dreaded (because one tiny mistake throws the whole thing under the bus) online order form.

It works in the same basic way Facebook Login works for other sites you might use it on as an ID. You click the Facebook button instead of filling in the login form and it logs you in through your browser’s Facebook-embedded cookies.

This makes life easier, but also makes you vulnerable. Whether or not you can accept that security risk is up to you, of course. Often, the comments section of a blog or the login to a monthly subscription site isn’t all that important, really, so the extra risk is no big deal. But with your credit card?

Ya, that’s what I thought too.

The basic idea is that if you buy things through Facebook, such as game credits or Gifts, then your information is already on file and can be used elsewhere with a special Facebook-integrated button. It’s an idea that brings a lot of convenience to online shopping, but has some glaringly obvious security risks that people will want to think about before they use it.

Ultimately, for Facebook, this is about ad revenue. If you use the form population tool to buy stuff, Facebook can gather data on what you just purchased and use that to serve ads to you for items similar to that in order to get you to buy more, this time through an ad click they get paid for.

For the consumer, it means more convenience and easier shopping. For the seller, it means more buyers since the shopping process just got simplified.

The only down side is security. If your Facebook account is hacked for any reason (and more often, these are being targeted rather than email now), then your financial life may be put at risk as well as your social life.

The risk, of course, is up to the consumer to take. Personally, I do not think I would use it, but for the shopper that uses mobile devices and such all the time, having someone else fill in the form may be a boon.

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