So many choices. And yet... Photo: Sandra Mu/Getty Images
Add this to the list of our country's technological backwardness:
The rest of the western world has figured out how to dramatically reduce identity theft and credit card fraud.
We, however, still use magnetic stripes. Stripes that can be so easily cloned and copied.
And even though the credit card industry is rigorous about prosecuting fraud, they haven't taken the single, fairly simple, if admittedly not cheap, step to solving the problem.
It's cheap enough, however, for 80 other countries to have upgraded. Instead of magnetic stripes, which contain a single code for all time, smart cards are like one-time only pads that spies used to use. The smart card's microprocessor talks to the machine you're transacting with, verifies its identity, and then transmits an encrypted code that the outbound machine verifies. Humans don't see the digital intercourse. The transaction is secure.
Smartcard-ready retailers don't keep credit card numbers on file, or on mainframes waiting for cyberthieves to steal them. They keep transaction records instead.
Post Snowden, I imagine that Smartcard makers will want to make sure that there aren't any implants or software backdoors. That'll especially be true if we begin to use digital cards for non-consumer purposes, like health care.
According to various accounts, the credit card industry wants to phase in smart cards by 2015, but retailers are resisting the costs associated with the infrastructure change.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' confused man-crush on Vladimir Putin
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why is American internet so slow?
- Don't worry: World War III will almost certainly never happen
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi dismantles another ObamaCare myth
- The new bride who had a horrifying allergic reaction to her husband's sperm
Subscribe to the Week