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FTC Mobile Payments Conference on April 26

posted by Adam Levitin

Here's a plug for a conference on mobile payments that the FTC is hosting next week.  It will be webcast live.  The agenda is here.  I'm one of the speakers.  

Despite my participation, it should be a really interesting conference.  Mobile brings together a range of new and existing consumer finance, privacy, IP, and antitrust issues:  mix together one part banks, one part telecoms, one part device manufacturers, one part OS manufacturers, and one part app designers and stir.  What's going to result from that mix isn't clear.  We're still in the early stages of mobile; it's clear that in 10 years, if not 5, mobile will be a major part of the US payment system, but it isn't clear yet what that will look like.  It could develop in a number of ways, with very different implications for the end-users (consumers and merchants) and the various intermediation participants (banks, telecoms, OS, hardware, and app makers).

There is a lot of potential benefit to consumers and merchants from marrying payments with all of the other consumer data that goes through mobile (e.g., location, contacts, interests), but also major privacy and competitive concerns. We don't have a clear framework for working through those issues at present. Mobile's cross-sector business complicates attempts to create such a framework. Mobile touches on the jurisdiction of the FTC, CFPB, FCC, and DOJ (antitrust), raising obvious coordination issues. Uncertainty over regulation isn't simply a concern for end-users; a clear regulatory framework is actually important for the development of mobile platforms, as regulatory uncertainty creates an investment risk. I'm really glad to see the FTC hosting this conference--it shows a regulatory awareness of the need to engage with the issues raised by mobile.  


One has to wonder for those who do not trust banks or electronic data storage/transmission (many a breach has been noted in the media)how would one make an electronic payment based on a Paper Franklin or is paper money on it's way out like that of the Dodo.

Or, are we being herded to trust that that may we find not trust-able. Is this the time for trust?

So much for burying money in the backyard. The grand children's treasure hunts will never be the same.

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