Friday, March 11, 2011

VeriFone's assult on Jack Dorsey's Square

One of the powerhouses of credit card transactions has launched a social media style campaign against Twitter creator Jack Dorsey's latest company. Square is a small device that turns any smartphone into a credit card reader. The goal is to make credit card transactions easy enough for SMEs to do and afford.

VeriFone have created a microsite to spearhead their campaign against this start up competitor and they've gone for the throat. They claim that Square is flawed by design, that it's not secure and therfore it simply represents a cheap and easy way for criminals to rip off your credit card details.

Here's their vid:



Does this argument hold any water though? I think it depends on exactly what details or access criminals are able to get from skimming the card. If they're not able to get any more details than, say, simply looking at the card then their tactics may be flawed.

The ex-lead of Gmail's design team and current Mozilla Lab design lead, Kevin Fox, seems to think so.

Fox has posted this YouTube to illustrate why VeriFone's arguments aren't worth listening too.



Square have also posted a response. In it they say;

Any technology—an encrypted card reader, phone camera, or plain old pen and paper—can be used to “skim” or copy numbers from a credit card. The waiter you hand your credit card to at a restaurant, for example, could easily steal your card details if he wanted to—no technology required. If you provide your credit card to someone who intends to steal from you, they already have everything they need: the information on the front of your card.


Time will tell how this pans out. It's certainly true that privacy and identity theft are front of many people's minds. They are both real concerns. However, we're also looking at a future that might require pop-ups in order to gain permission before the drop of a cookie, and if that's a usability nightmare then imagine what extra steps and hoops to a credit card purchase will be like.

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