With Thursday’s launch of Google Wallet, the company has added yet another service to its ever-expanding roster and given customers a way to fall even deeper into its online ecosystem. The service allows users to place their credit cards on their Nexus S 4G smartphones, which they can then swipe over a reader at checkout to pay for purchases.
I already use Google for too many things in my daily life (more than I realized before compiling this list). My Web searchers, e-mail, phone calls, pictures, RSS feeds, videos, documents and calendar are all hooked into Google one way or another. When I “Mapquest” something — yes, I still say that — what I really mean is that I’m headed to Google Maps, where my home address is saved as my default location.
But will I use Google Wallet? No way. I clearly trust them with a lot of my information, but this is where I draw the line. And I’m not alone.
Look around the Web today at the reactions to Google Wallet. In order for the service to work, the company has to overcome one big obstacle: its own reputation.
“No way I would trust them to do this. All they want is personal information they can resell and repackage. This is what they do,” wrote commenter “ssterno: on my original post about the service.
“Trust your wallet to Google...what could happen?” another commenter wrote on Twitter.
Anticipating some of that skepticism, Google’s already taking pains to be transparent.
On a very thorough FAQ on the company’s site, Google says the company doesn’t currently have access to users’ credit card information. The chip that stores financial information is very secure, and clients need to enter a PIN number to make a purchase.
When asked if Google will be using the data for targeted advertisements, Google spokesman Nathan Taylor was clear: “No, we are not.”
And when you think about it, using your phone to pay for something is probably not that different from using your credit card. You can leave your wallet in a cab (as I did not too long ago) as easily as you can lose a phone. Both can be stolen, and a filched credit card doesn’t require a PIN to use
In terms of security, MasterCard spokeswoman Joanne Trout said that customers will have the same fraud protection and zero liability for purchases made on a stolen phone as they would with a card.
Still, I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Despite the assurances that Google has matured in user privacy — either because it’s learning or because it’s being watched — I still think of it as the company that brought you the twin controversies of Google Buzz and Google Street View in the not-at-all distant past. Sometimes it innovates first and thinks of privacy later. So when it comes to giving it access to my bank account, I’m a little hesitant.
There are other, more pragmatic reasons that I think I’ll hold off on embracing Google Wallet for now. I don’t want to be too reliant on my phone, in case I forget to charge it or I drop it. If Apple, RIM, Microsoft or anyone else offered this technology, I doubt I’d be the first in line to get it, either. And the retail partners that have signed on — including Walgreens, Macy’s, Subway and American Eagle — just aren’t places I shop that often.
Mostly, though, I’m wary because I’ve already given Google so much of my data. It’s a psychological barrier I’m not ready to breach.
I guess it when comes to describing my relationship with Google, all I can do is quote Facebook: It’s complicated.
Will you use Google Wallet? How much do you trust Google?