By: Shayla Aaron
Over the last decade, technology has reached phenomenal new heights in the mobile world. Smart phone companies like Apple and Android are best known for their apps in the App Store and Play Store, respectively. These apps make life more accessible for the masses; everything from watching television to running errands is in an app. Some of the most popular on-the-go apps today are the banking and money sharing apps. Just imagine, no more waiting in long lines at the bank, credit union or ATM machines. No more trying to figure out how you and your friends can split the bill. These apps undoubtedly make life so much easier, but at what cost?
There are countless money sharing apps on the market, like Venmo, GroupMe, Splittr, and local banking apps like Square Reader, Bank of America and Chase. Banking apps like Bank of America and Chase make it easy for users to deposit money and pay bills. Money sharing apps like Venmo make it easy for users to split the bill among one another and transfer money into each other’s accounts. These apps are extremely convenient, however, what these apps do not tell users is what makes them so alarming. These apps are susceptible to privacy and security breaches, leaving users to deal with the ramifications.
When users download these apps, they click “I Agree to the Terms” and bypass reading what these terms actually entail. In Bank of America’s terms, users agree to giving Bank of America access to turn on their camera wherever and whenever they want. By agreeing to the banking app’s terms, users give Bank of America and others alike global permission, so they do not have to notify users every time they invade their privacy. Most of these apps contain a backdoor in their software. A backdoor is a way for a programmer to log onto the system and monitor the keystrokes a user is inputting, thus making it easy for a hacker to steal passwords and other vital information. A backdoor also allows a programmer to view and listen to what is going on around the user by turning on the camera and microphone.
With security breaches, come the expensive consequences associated with them. According to ABC News, some Venmo app users were not notified by the company when changes were being made to their accounts. This problem made it easy for hackers to change a user’s email and password associated with their account, and by the time the user noticed, the money would already be gone. Users of the Bank of America app also had issues, but with depositing their check. When some users would take a picture of their check, the app would deposit it into their account. However, after the check was deposited, the bank would sometimes reject the check without the user’s knowledge. As a result, the user could potentially end up with insufficient funds in their account.
The lesson in all of this is that things that come easy are not necessarily good. Everything has a consequence whether it is good or bad. Who knows what the future holds for banking and money transfer apps. I believe there should be laws set in place that outlaw these apps from disguising their unconscionable and undesirable terms. For now, the best solution is to educate users about the unfortunate situations that they could place themselves in if they choose to use these apps, and to encourage users to read the terms of these apps before they purchase or download. These apps are extremely convenient time savers, but there is no point in making life more convenient at the cost of losing peace of mind.
Shayla is a Staff Member of the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 2L at Suffolk University Law School with a concentration in Criminal Law. She holds a B.S. in Criminology and Psychology from the University of Florida.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.