The Signal encryption application is testing a new feature that lets you send money privately, without going through large financial networks.
To do this, the application adds the ability to pay in cryptocurrency, known as MobileCoin. It will first be released for UK users using the beta version of the mobile app.
Signal has gained huge popularity due to its claim of end-to-end encryption of the messaging application. This means that the provider cannot read the content of your messages, only you and the recipient of the messages can do this. Adding a payment system would definitely help improve Signal’s functionality. But it could also “trouble” the app, as users will pay each other with money from their bank accounts or credit cards, leaving an easily traceable financial footprint.
To maintain privacy, Signal developers have decided to use the financial network managed by MobileCoin, which is designed to encrypt all transactions made with their cryptocurrency. As a result, only the sender and recipient of the payment should be able to track the transaction. On the other hand, bitcoin transactions are recorded in the blockchain, which acts as a public ledger.
“As always, our goal is to keep your data in your hands and not ours,” wrote Jun Harada, Signal’s head of development. “MobileCoin design means that Signal does not have access to your balance, complete transaction history or your money.”
In an interview with Wired, Signal creator Moxie Marlinspike added: “There is a noticeable difference in how it feels to communicate through Signal, knowing that you are not being watched or listened to, compared to other communication platforms. I would like to reach a world where not only can you feel this when you talk to your therapist through Signal, but also when you pay your therapist for the session through Signal“.
Enabling the payment feature will create a MobileCoin wallet with your Signal account. You can then send and receive cryptocurrencies to and from your friends in less than 10 seconds.
However, an obstacle facing the new feature is the lack of adoption of MobileCoin. The cryptocurrency is currently only available on the UK’s FTX exchange platform, where the coin costs $65. Also, the price of cryptocurrencies tends to fluctuate wildly, so any money sent using MobileCoin could skyrocket in value or fall in value.
Signal hopes users in the UK will help test their ability to pay. It plans to expand this beta to the rest of the world in the future.