Media

Three Reasons Why You Should Keep Gmail far Away from Your Credit Card Information

Google’s plot for world domination now includes your credit cards.

Google wants your money. Or, more precisely, Google wants your bank account and credit card info.

At Quartz, Chris Mims reports that Google appears to be accelerating its roll-out of a service that will allow gmail users to send money via email to whomever they want as easily as sending an attachment. Sounds great — but wait, there’s more!

Here’s what’s brilliant about offering the “send money” feature: Google almost certainly doesn’t care whether you use it to send money. What it cares about is getting you to sign up to Google Wallet and capture your bank account and credit-card information. And it’s using Gmail, which has a reach comparable to that of Facebook—425 million as of June 2012, the last time Google released numbers—to do it.

Once Google has your payment info, it can then implement PayPal-like functionality throughout the Google universe — YouTube, search, Maps, you name it. Anywhere you travel online while logged into your Google Account, you will have the ability to click-and-pay.

I can easily see this becoming popular. But here are three reasons to be wary.

1) Your Gmail account is already a hugely tempting target for hackers. Adding your financial info to that account will make it irresistible.

2) Google’s ability to effectively target ads already gives it tremendous power to manipulate consumer behavior. Adding the instant gratification of easy-checkout to those ads will make the company even more powerful.

3) Google already knows far too much about what we want, what we do, where we go, and who we communicate with. Do we really want to complete the chain and give the company our most intimate financial information?

The question posed by Google — and, really, all online Web services. At what point does convenience become vulnerability?

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. Follow him on Twitter: @koxinga21