Google Wallet prepaid cards are allowed again

Posted by Mark Raby

After a minor case of hysteria erupted over privacy concerns with Google Wallet, the search giant has re-enabled access for users paying with prepaid gift cards.

Google Wallet is the pioneer in mobile phone-initiated payments and point-of-sale terminals at actual physical store locations. It allows users to swipe their phone instead of a credit card to pay for their purchase.

Recently, though, there was a lot of concern about the potential for hackers to gain access to a user's Google Wallet PIN, which would enable them to look up personal information.

Google downplayed the media outburst, highlighting the fact that it only affected users who rooted their phone, and anyone with enough technical savvy to do that should already be aware of the risks it involves.

In addition, Google said, taking simple measures like ensuring your phone has a lock screen, can go a long way to keeping your data private. Nevertheless, it bowed to the pressure of the criticism and disabled the ability for users to link a prepaid card to their Google Wallet account.

There was an additional issue with prepaid cards in that hackers could also gain access to information about how much money was left on the card. So Google temporarily disabled that feature, made it a bit more secure, and has now reinstated it.

In the long run, this episode will probably have little impact on the momentum that mobile payments has right now. There's a competing standard to Google Wallet called Isis, which is set to go live later this year.