By Willy Staley  Updated on Mon Jul 21, 2014

Weekly Wrap: Technology Can Cause as Many Problems as It Solves

 

At the beginning of this week, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released a campaign app called “With Mitt,” which aside from being terribly redundant to someone who speaks both German and English, contained a massive typo. The app superimposes text over user-snapped photographs that is supposed to read “A Better America.” Unfortunately for Mitt, his developer or designer misspelled America as “Amercia.” Hilarity ensued. There’s a lesson here for Mitt, of course, and it’s not that he should check his spelling — transposing letters like that happens to everyone, and he obviously didn’t develop the app. The lesson is this: just because there are so many things we can do with technology, it doesn’t mean we should do all of them — it can work against us, too.

But not always! Let’s look at the exciting tech stories from this week before we get into the dystopian stuff.

In consumer-facing news, we had some good developments. Wells Fargo began a phased rollout of its mobile check deposit. Wells is currently doing a limited launch to gauge customer response and feedback before it goes nationwide with the service. The bank also launched a new P2P mobile payments system last week. A company that started out by transporting valuables in the 19th century is slowly reaching the point where its customers will never need to transport valuables again.

And Capital One is rolling out a personalized deals program, offering coupons to customers based on their spending patterns. Buy a lot of hamburgers? Capital One might toss you a few bucks off at Red Robin. And, in other news, online bank UFB Direct introduced an MMA with a competitive APY of 1.15% — the lack of a retail network can enable better rates. Lastly, we learned that Groupon purchased a restaurant iOS-based POS system called Breadcrumb, which finally made us understand why the discounts company was testing out dongles. They might be able to bring revolutionary pricing models to restaurants. Technology, yes!

But now we must turn to its dark side. We penned a long jeremiad against the mobile wallet this week. Well, not against the mobile wallet per se, but against all the promise the marketers see in it. As consumers, and more importantly as citizens, why should we be excited about this prospect? There are some potentially troubling outcomes to a cashless world, as the London Olympics confirmed this week. We wrote about London’s Brand Exclusion Zone, wherein only Visa payments will be accepted. Don’t have a Visa card? You better bring cash, because the eight ATMs that Visa is providing (while disabling 27) only take Visa, too. What do we give up when we go cashless? In short: our freedom.

Not all hope is lost, however. Paul checked in to write about Share, Save, Spend: a simple and elegant attitude towards money that our generation might stand to learn something from. That’s a wide lens right there, but we focused in a bit more closely on a few personal finance topics this week, too. We learned how to read our credit score. We also learned four alternative ways to measure creditworthiness, and we discussed what you should do with above-average, but not massive paydays.

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