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This week in viral: What is Facebook Pay?

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Move over, online banking. There’s yet another threat from a social media giant to take over your services. Facebook Messenger, the online real-time chat capability that any Facebooker can use to communicate with their Facebook friends, will offer a new feature in the coming months to give people a “more convenient and secure way to send or receive money between friends.” Apple has Apple Pay and there is PayPal, so maybe this one should be called Facebook Pay.

Whatever could go wrong? In the age where cyber attacks and company-wide hackings seem to be the news of the day or week — remember Anthem, Premera, Sony, Target? — it would seem counterintuitive to add your debit card information to a social media network, especially because there are a million “live” links at all times on your account. Or maybe, it’s just the paranoid and technology-cautious version of me writing this blog.

Below is a video that explains how “Facebook Pay” will work:

Sure, Facebook adds a “secure network” part to their announcement on their page (you can read the full document here), where they cite that their experience with financial transactions dates back to 2007, when games like Farmville and, more recently, Candy Crush, allowed Facebook users/players to buy upgrades through the site. The transfers would only work between Visa or MasterCard debit cards, “issued by a U.S. bank to your account.”

It seems like this feature will only be available between personal profiles and not company pages. But, does this mean that Facebook will eventually expand more into e-commerce, maybe allowing people to post and sell goods through their website? They tried that back in 2007 with Facebook Marketplace in an attempt to emulate Craigslist, but it never really took off.

In an article on TechCrunch, Facebook’s product manager on the feature, Steve Davis, said that “conversations about money are already happening on Messenger. What we want to do is make it easy to finish the conversation in the same place you started. You don’t have to switch to another app,” he said.

For now, the announcement says that the transaction will be free of charge, but as a public company that faces pressure from investors on monetizing their social media platform, it might make sense for Facebook to start charging per transaction once the technology is fully adopted.

Call me skeptical or whatever you like: I won’t be adding yet another part of my identity to the social media giant. It just feels … even more intrusive. They are already tracking whatever I search for on the Internet. But what’s the worst that they could find? That I love shoes?

A word of caution to parents who let their children play with their phones: Just be careful that your kid doesn’t accidentally send $10,000 to your friend’s account.

What do you think? Would you use this new Facebook feature? For what other things do you think this technology could be used? Leave a comment below and let us know. 

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