Amazon may be cooking up its own anonymous mobile payments system.
Published yesterday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Amazon patent application appropriately dubbed "Anonymous mobile payments" describes a system that would let mobile users pay for items without having to reveal their name, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal details to the seller.
The invention follows in the footsteps of other mobile payment systems. However, Amazon takes it a few steps further.
Beyond shielding the personal information of the buyer, Amazon's system would use a special code, or temporary identifier, to conduct the mobile transaction anonymously. Such a code would be passed between the buyer and the seller with Amazon acting as the middleman so that no personal details are exchanged. A single code could also have an expiration date and be used multiple times.
Amazon describes the process in its patent application:
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.
Assuming it ever comes to life, the system could outrival those of other mobile payments providers given the huge number of customers that Amazon holds. The patent was filed on April 13, 2009.