WSJ: Google teams with MasterCard and Citigroup for NFC payments, also files patent app

Ever since the Nexus S and its nifty little NFC chip hit the market, there's been speculation that El Goog was planning a foray into the mobile payment arena currently occupied by the likes of Charge Anywhere. Now, it looks like that plan may be in high gear, as the Wall Street Journal reports that Google's secretly partnered with MasterCard and Citigroup to test out just such a system. According to the publication, the early demo pairs "one current model and many coming models of Android phones" with existing Citigroup-sponsored credit and debit cards, and is using the phones' NFC chips with those VeriFone readers we recently heard about.

What's more, a newly-published patent application from the crew in Mountain View may hint at the software behind such things. The application describes a service that sets up Google as a third-party broker who receives the shopping cart info of customers placing orders via a device (including those of the mobile variety), allows them to select shipping and other options, and provides the total order cost. It then collects payment, coordinates shipment, and forwards order information to the seller to complete the transaction. So companies can have Google handle all their payment-taking needs in return for getting a sneak peek at what folks are buying -- something that the WSJ's sources say might be a component of the setup Google's testing right now -- as opposed to other third-party services, like Paypal, that only obtain and exchange payment info with merchants. Looks like Alma Whitten (Google's Director of Privacy) has her work cut out assuaging the concerns such a system will inevitably create in an increasingly privacy-minded populace.

Sean Hollister contributed to this report.