Technological innovation over the last decade can be summed up in one word: convenience. In a world where over half of American adults own smartphones it makes sense that companies have begun targeting these devices with their new innovations. Innovation, in today’s world, takes the form of solving problems by increasing efficiency through greater use of the computer in our pockets.

For millennials, the largest and ever-growing bloc of consumers, this makes perfect sense. Millennials raised on the internet strive for efficiency and convenience at almost any cost. High speed internet is better than dial up. Texting is better than calling. Ordering products on Amazon is preferable to going to the store. Using the Domino’s web tracker is easier than speaking with a cashier. Even paying bills via the internet is considerably preferable than sending checks through the mail to utility companies.

Companies have been responding to this desire for efficiency. Uber allows users to hail a cab straight from their phone and avoid the need to handle cash and sort out tipping a driver. The City of Boston created an app allowing drivers to pay a meter from their phone. Tinder created a platform for speed dating from the comfort of your phone.

A new suite of apps have taken this idea to the financial sector. Robinhood allows users to trade stocks with a few keystrokes. VenmoSquare Cash, and Apple Pay allow users to pay one another wirelessly through the app, instead of reaching into their pocket for cash or a check. Unsurprisingly, millennials have flocked to these apps. These payment services created a way to split the cost dinner or drinks in the most efficient way possible. A group of twenty-somethings at dinner will likely not all have cash on them. They certainly will not all have access to checks. But one thing they are all certain to have is a cell phone.

With all of the convenience offered by apps there comes a set of problems and pitfalls as well. In the tech industry, and particularly in terms of the financial sector, they key problem is security. For as much as Venmo touts itself on providing efficiency, ease of use, and a social aspect security seems to be significantly overlooked. Despite processing $700 million worth of payments in the third quarter of 2014 alone, Venmo lacks a dedicated fraud/security staff and forces users who have been hacked to contact its general support email address. Often users are left in the dark waiting to hear a reply for several days. Some users who utilize the company’s Twitter feed have better luck.

Unfortunately Venmo has been suffering a series of account breaches where a hacker sneaks into a users account and transfers large sums of money directly from the users bank account to a third person. Venmo is now changing its security features to notify users when their account password is changed, but it is doubtful that this measure will completely eliminate all forms of danger. The important question though, is do millennials care? Will the recent string of breaches in Venmo make young users any less likely to tie their credit cards and bank accounts in the name of convenience? At what point will security concerns make the prospect of convenience and ease of use not worth it?

Zach Altman

2 Responses to When Convenience Isn’t Worth It

  1. Joshua Sureck says:

    In my opinion, unfortunately, it appears that there is broad exposure to security breach risks like hacking in many of the things we do everyday. For example, not only is the Robinhood cellphone application potentially exposed to hacking risks, but also certain securities exchanges themselves likes the Nasdaq have been infiltrated in the past. Technology will continue to remain a target for hacking. It is important however that hacking incidents are made publically known.

    If a cyber security breach were to occur at the Nasdaq, anyone who follows the news will be informed and can decide how to act from there. And in a sense, this publicity will partly be the impetus for the Nasdaq and other exchanges to ramp up on security.

    If there are security breaches to Venmo user’s bank accounts than the breaches should be made known. If other Venmo users aren’t informed and the incidents are marginalized as isolated events, then Venmo has less of an incentive to increase security in a broad way. When it comes to Venmo, Millennials may even be acting rationally by just sort of free-riding on other user’s hardships that spur Venmo into making a more secure yet still convenient experience for all.

  2. Mallik Yamusah says:

    It is concerning how often we are willing to risk our security in the name of convenience. I think another question we must ask is are we aware of all the risks. The risks of security are often so vague and ill-defined that it can become easier to dismiss or ignore them. Additionally, we as millennials are still at the age where often it is easy to believe that we are exceptions to risk and danger. Then, there are concerns of security in relation to the government as well. These threats are also hidden, although some would argue we are in a better position to see them due to the disclosures by Edward Snowden. I wonder what it will take to force companies to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to security measures.