White House: Apple Pay will support debit cards for Social Security and veterans benefits

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Tim Cook was one of the only Silicon Valley execs to speak at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, held on Friday in Palo Alto. Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt were invited, but all declined to attend.

And President Barack Obama did Apple a solid in return: The White House announced that Apple Pay will soon support federal-payment cards, such as debit cards issued for Social Security and veterans benefits.

Why this matters: This is a big deal for Apple. Its rollout of Apple Pay has been a success, and this is tacit to an endorsement from the federal government, which is a mighty big customer. The two payment networks involved in the deal, Direct Express and GSA SmartPay, handle upwards of 87.4 million transactions per year, worth $26.4 billion, according to the General Services Administration, as reported by Bloomberg.

Security is one of Apple Pay’s selling points. Cook remarked at the Goldman Sachs Internet Conference earlier this week that his own debit card has been breached three times already. Apple Pay lets users make secure transactions with a single-use token, without exposing the user’s real account number or other personally identifying details. That way, if a store’s database is breached, the hackers won’t get any information they can use to open new accounts or make new transactions.

That privacy even extends to Apple. The company doesn’t store records of where Apple Pay users shop, what they buy, or how much they spend. “It’s none of my business,” Cook told the Goldman Sachs conference.

In Cook’s remarks at the White House cybersecurity summit on Friday, he also mentioned that starting in September, Apple Pay would support many transactions with the federal government, such as reserving campsites at national parks.

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