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Privacy and Security - a radical shift in perception

“I do not want to share any private information”, they always said.

“What constitutes private information?” I would ask.

“My bank details, phone number, address…”, would be the prompt response.

Such responses were consistent and normal not too long ago, especially in relation to sharing of one's information with online platforms.

This was precisely the reason why I could not help notice the change on my recent visit to Hassan, a small town in Southern India.

Even as we do read a lot about the staggering numbers related to digital payments, in India, Hassan was an eye opener.

The biggest revelation to me was the fact that I saw fewer credit/debit card swiping machines, something that was a symbol of the online/digital payment acceptance system. Businesses, both big and small, have now replaced the machines with multi optional QR Codes from digital payment platforms like Paytm, Phone Pe, BHIM, Google Pay etc.

I was fortunate to be at a roadside (makeshift) coconut water stall when a representative from one of the digital payment platforms dropped by. What transpired was eye opening. Not only was the sales representative able to convince the seller to adopt his payment method, without much resistance, but more surprisingly, he was able to activate and initiate the payment system in barely 15 mins, all while we stood there.

A pre-activated QR Code sticker which was instantly linked to the seller's bank account and confirmed in seconds by an OTP (One time password) received.

What transpired next was even more surprising. After a brief discussion the representative went ahead and stuck the QR Code sticker on the ‘public’ wall, just behind the stall.

Once he had left, I couldn’t help but ask the seller how come he didn’t seem to have any security concerns having his QR Code stuck on a public wall.

“This (QR Code sticker) neither reveals my bank account number, nor my mobile phone number so how can anyone hack it (bank account)?”, he said. With a mischievous chuckle he further quipped, “All one can do is deposit money into my account (through the QR Code) and for that they are always welcome…”

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