Amazon Seeks Patent for ‘Anonymous Mobile Payments’

April 18, 2013

A patent application from Amazon published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes technology that could be used to make mobile payments without identifying the mobile user. Being able to make payments via mobile device without divulging personal financial details could allay consumers’ security fears, one of the obstacles the technology still must overcome to ensure widespread adoption.

Amazon’s patent application describes a temporary code that could be used in lieu of personal details between buyer and seller. Amazon, which already holds such information for more than 200 million active accounts, presumably would sit in the middle of the transactions to authenticate the users.

The application’s abstract describes how the temporary identifier could be implemented:

“Anonymous mobile payments enable a user to make and/or receive payments without disclosing personal or private information to another party. In some aspects, a provider of a payment may request an anonymous payment for a specified value from a host. In response, the host may transmit to the provider a code that is available for redemption. The provider may then relay the code to a recipient, who may redeem the code from the host. In other aspects, a recipient may request a temporary identifier (special code) from a host. The recipient may relay the temporary identifier to a provider, who may in turn transmit a payment, via the host, using the temporary identifier. The recipient may then claim the payment from the host. In additional aspects, the codes of the anonymous payments may include expiration times and/or restrictions on a number of uses of the code.”