Facebook has announced a new feature of its Messenger product, which allows friends to send payments directly to each other, reports Tech Crunch. The feature will roll out to American customers across the desktop site, followed by iOS and Android devices over the next few months.
Users wanting to take advantage of the feature will need to add their debit card information within Messenger’s settings. Once that’s done, friends can send money mid-conversation by tapping the dollar icon that appears in a row above the onscreen keyboard, and pressing ‘Pay’. The person on the receiving end has to add their own debit card information (credit cards are not initially to be supported to minimize fraud and avoid fees, according to Facebook), and then just has to accept the payment in the conversation.
Whenever money is involved, the question of security has to come up, however, with the CEO of rival payment site WorldPay sounding possible alarm over a social network stepping beyond its traditional remit into the world of payments, telling The Inquirer that people “still have concerns about security online, with identity fraud that uses data cribbed from social networks rife.”
“Until these fears are put to bed, this will be a big barrier to the wholesale adoption of this technology,” he added.
Facebook denies that security will be a problem, stating that, “We use secure systems that encrypt the connection between you and Facebook as well as your card information when you ask us to store it for you. We use layers of software and hardware protection that meet the highest industry standards.”
“These payment systems are kept in a secured environment that is separate from other parts of the Facebook network and that receive additional monitoring and control. A team of anti-fraud specialists monitor for suspicious purchase activity to help keep accounts safe.”
Mashable backs up these security credentials, noting Facebook’s claim that the software and equipment are PCI compliant, “the same security standard applied to credit card transactions.”
Commenting on the news to The Inquirer, ESET security expert Mark James said, “I am sure security will be their number one priority, it would appear that currently the goal is to offer a free-of-charge service with the intention of keeping you fully embedded into the Facebook ethos and if it means saving some money then it could be a good thing.”
“Digital payment methods are increasing and as long as security keeps up it will benefit us all, although Facebook is a big target and I am sure one that will be looked at very closely once this goes live. However, in turn, Facebook will invest heavily in this security in an attempt to keep our data safe,” James concluded.