Google might trump security concerns with reported "Pony Express" service
Google is reportedly working on a new service that would allow consumers to receive their bills through Gmail instead of physical mail. The service, which was first revealed by Recode and bears the "Pony Express" codename, could also allow people to pay their bills without having to visit numerous websites.
Pony Express would require consumers to share their "name, address and partial and full Social Security number to a third-party company that vets their identity," according to Recode's report. After that's done, other companies could send bills straight to Google, instead of sending them via snail mail.
Consumers might then give their banking information to Google so they can pay their bills directly from Gmail or the company's newish Inbox application. Bills would no longer be sent via both physical mail and email, nor would they require people to visit multiple websites. Google would just handle everything.
The service does seem compelling. I'd rather not have to bounce between the Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and NYSEG websites at the beginning of each month. Is doing that very taxing? No. Would I still like to improve the process so it doesn't feel like these companies are adding insult to injury? Absolutely.
I'm also interested to see how people might react to this service. It sometimes seems like a week can't pass without another company revealing a data breach, and it's becoming increasingly clear that it's foolish to trust too many websites with personal information. Given all that, would consumers really want to add social security numbers to what Google knows, or could know, about them?
If this new service is as convenient as it seems, they just might. Google has a knack for making people not care that they're providing it with so much data. How consumers respond to this service if it debuts later this year, as expected, could show how worried they are about protecting their personal information.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]