PayPal wants to get to know you. Really well. Really really well.
They know how much you hate having to remember all your different passwords. So, to ease your burden, they have a new device. It’s simple really, simpler even than clicking a few times to have PayPal move money from your bank account to that guy selling the weird lamp you don’t need but accidentally bid on during an eBay excursion.
For those who have classic garden-variety paranoia: you’d be advised to stop here. But for those insensate to the stirrings of good old American paranoia, or who are prescribed large doses of mood flatteners, read on!
PayPal plans to put a teensy weensy little microchip into a pill; a pill you swallow every now and again; one where the microchip is sort of like an electronic key that you swipe. Rather than swiping here is what happens: Every time you are near a computer and get the itch to buy something, your pals at PayPal won’t ask you to remember your password. No more random combinations of dogs’ names or old girl friends’ names or mixes of the two.
Instead of using your noodle, PayPal will get the signal from that cute little pill you swallowed and log you on with no muss or fuss. From your ingested microchip, onto the Internet, and you don’t have to even remember your own name!
This is part of PayPal’s goal of “true integration with the human body”—a goal I hadn’t realized they valued much. I mean, we pay them when we need to—but do we really have to integrate them into our own bodies? Apparently so: like birth control, per PayPal’s Jonathan Leblanc, the “next wave of passwords will be edible, ingestible or injectable”
And the information being sent is not the dog-and-girlfriend variety at all—that is, guessable by someone with a creative mind and a lot of time. You can be (and probably have been) hacked. Not in this brave new world. Your “log-on” will be biometric—something that says you and just you! Like your heartbeat or your veins or maybe the may your blood sugar rises and falls during the day. Something unique that your ingested microchip can beam across to that laptop opened to the irresistible sport coat marked down to $79 while they last.
To which I say—good luck, kids.
Have you ever looked inside someone’s stomach? It’s scary in there—enough acid to denature a raw egg, thick folds of stomach lining, gooey mucus, old food and new, a penny you swallowed in a nervous fit as well as the microscopic milieu of bacteria and glands and dying stomach cells killed by the very acid made by the next cell over. You want to put a microchip in THAT and try to get anything intelligible?
Much less the issues like what happens when you eat a really greasy meal and the signals are blunted in the butter sauce. Or what about getting a pacemaker or an MRI scan—or for that matter walking merrily through a TSA body scanner. Maybe your unique biometric identifier will be changed, maybe it won’t— but what can you do? It’s in your stomach somewhere.
I will leave aside the evacuation aspect of the problem—like if you “pass” your microchip, how will you know it? Perhaps toilets could be equipped with additional sensors that monitor the passage of equipment. This update could then be relayed to a nearby PayPal body integration specialist who would appear at your doorway with a new micro-chipped pill—and a comment about your blood pressure and over all state of mind.
I am surprised that the pursuit of the magic fingerprint or the iris scanner appears to be cast aside. This must be either because it is too complex, or—likelier for the big game PayPal seems to be hunting—because it is too simple.
The current system, exasperating and inefficient, leaves users (myself included) screaming at their computers for answers to questions like: which fucking letter did I capitalize in my dog's name?
Despite popular belief, this actually is a great thing—at least as far as life with PayPal or any on-line store is concerned. Take that same $79 sport coat that is dying to be bought, just begging for the click. But you can’t buy it because you have no clue what your PayPal password is. So you pummel your desk and curse the Gods but you can’t log into PayPal. Till—mirabile dictu—you look again at that on-sale sport coat. Which you now realize is awful —an eyesore—a cheap one, but an eyesore nevertheless.
And so you click off that site, $79 (plus tax) less poor, and start to read the news. With relief and appreciation at your own failing memory—because sometimes, and maybe often, inefficiency is a man’s best friend.
Paypal sent the following comment to The Daily Beast:
We have no plans to develop injectable or edible verification systems. It's clear that passwords as we know them will evolve and we aim to be at the forefront of those developments. We were a founding member of the FIDO alliance, and the first to implement fingerprint payments with Samsung. New PayPal-driven innovations such as one touch payments make it even easier to remove the friction from shopping. We’re always innovating to make life easier and payments safer for our customers no matter what device or operating system they are using.