Signal has quietly rolled out a new payments system

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Signal has quietly added an option for cryptocurrency payments, delivering on a promise it made in the early months of 2021.

Now, users of the encrypted instant messaging app around the world can transfer their money using a privacy-focused cryptocurrency called MobileCoin. 

Founded in 2017 by Joshua Goldbard and Shane Glynn, MobileCoin builds on the Stellar blockchain for consensus, and Monero for privacy. Its key selling proposition is the ability to hide the details of user transactions.

Regulatory hurdles

“There are over a hundred million devices on planet Earth right now that have the ability to turn on MobileCoin and send an end-to-end encrypted payment in five seconds or less,” Goldbard told Wired, hinting at the number of downloads the app has.

Accessing the new feature in the app itself is as straightforward as it can be - all users need to do is tap the + icon in the app, and choose “payment”. However, to actually make the payment, users need to obtain MobileCoin first, and that could be a bit tricky at the moment.

Right now, MobileCoin is only available on two exchanges - BitFinex and FTX, Wired claims, and both of those are off-limits for US citizens. That can change at any moment in the future, though.

As tempting as it sounds, this move is likely to draw the attention of regulators, many of whom see cryptocurrencies as a way to finance terrorism and other illicit activities, or to circumvent taxes. How Signal overcomes this hurdle, remains to be seen.

Commenting on the idea, Matt Green, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University, says Signal is “super important”, but adds that this payment system could get them in trouble “when there's so much legislation and regulation around it."

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.