Singapore proposes payment system which only requires an email address
Mon 4 Apr 2016
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has outlined a number of new experimental FinTech proposals, including one which would enable payments to individuals where the only information the payer needs is the payee’s email address. Other possible ‘tokens’ include a Facebook (or other social network) ID, the subject’s mobile phone number or ‘other proxies’. It’s a scheme that on the surface seems to offer a number of privacy implications.
The proposal sat among a raft of other vanguard innovations mooted by MAS during panel comments from Ravi Menon, the organisation’s managing director, at the Singapore forum on Saturday. Notes from the forum read:
‘We are also exploring an “all-in-one” addressing system, that will enable us to pay someone electronically using the payee’s mobile number, email address, social network account, or other proxies. No need to know the payee’s bank account number.’
Using a token as personal as an email address, mobile number of social network ID suggests that the scheme would require an unusual level of government ‘verification’ of an individual who possesses any of these, and effectively constitutes the co-opting of private identification into the public sector. The UK government is developing a parallel scheme called Verify wherein certified companies stand in as identity guarantors for citizens who want or need to use government services online, having abandoned a mooted 2010 proposal to use Facebook IDs for this purpose, in the wake of the 2011 summer riots (which were partially organised by the use of Facebook).
MAS also announced that it is working with the Singapore financial industry on developing a unified Point-Of-Sale (POS) terminal capable of reading ‘all kinds of cards’ at retail and hospitality establishments. Though no further details were given on this scheme, it reads as the potential nationalisation of a service which is traditionally supplied by individual financial authorities, with only accountability and oversight due to the host government.
Singapore intends to institute a ‘regulatory sandbox’ approach to give financial innovators more freedom to experiment with innovative authentication technologies such as blockchain-based ledgers, and the notes comment that ‘with many innovations, it is not always possible to anticipate every vulnerability or whether there is a risk of breaching regulation’ and that MAS wants to ‘create an environment where if an experiment fails, it fails safely and cheaply, without larger adverse consequence.’