The race to converge US messaging apps with payment services has an unlikely contender for the champion. Signal, a small, California-based encrypted messaging app, tests an anonymous digital payments feature. It sums up everything regulators are afraid of.

Making money with messaging apps is still in the works. Facebook (now called Meta) paid $ 19 billion for WhatsApp in 2014 but has yet to generate revenue, although advertising and e-commerce transactions are expected. It has tested in-app payments, but only in Brazil and India.

Signal is committed to never selling data or showing ads. Instead, it relies on user donations. Although the app benefited from WhatsApp’s clumsy attempts to change its data sharing policy over the past year, it is valued at just 2 percent of WhatsApp’s global user base. Adding payments can add more.

Signal’s project enables users to link MobileCoin wallets to their account. MobileCoin is a so-called data protection coin that was developed to hide user identities and their transactions. This corresponds to Signal’s data protection-oriented model. It also caters to the needs of those looking to move money without being detected by law enforcement agencies.

At the moment the project is too small to cause much concern. Using a highly fluctuating cryptocurrency is not attractive. According to CoinGecko data, MobileCoin price rose to more than $ 67 in April 2021, but is now trading at less than $ 10. It’s not easy to come by either. It is only available on a few exchanges.

This does not mean that the US Securities and Exchange Commission is not paying close attention. Messaging app Telegram abandoned its own cryptocurrency plans when faced with an SEC battle. Meta’s crypto project Diem has received a pushback from regulators. Project manager David Marcus has since left the company. Signal’s anonymous payments are not hailed by anti-money laundering organizations.

The exit of Signal’s own boss, Moxie Marlinspike – an advisor to MobileCoin – suggests the payments project will remain limited. Brian Acton is now the interim CEO. Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, left Facebook after arguing over his plans to monetize the app. Commercial growth is not a priority. Regulators may be concerned, but the rivals can relax.


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