Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Beware the dangers of a cashless society

 by Silkie Carlo

As the country celebrates tradition and prepares for change, one major shift is closer than ever – our move towards becoming a cashless society. It is hard to imagine money without the Queen’s profile proudly embossed, defining our Elizabethan generation in a centuries-old British tradition, but the monarch’s face is fast disappearing from our pockets.

Many of us rarely use cash now at all and increasingly, shops, cafes and transport providers refuse to accept it. Card and contactless payments already outweigh cash payments in the UK. Our shift towards digital payments was further catalysed by Covid – even PIN-pads were deemed risky and life became, in all senses, contactless. But this also signalled an opportunity for the tech industry. Now, Mastercard is urging people to link their bank accounts to their facial biometrics in order to “smile to pay”.

Creepy? Yes, but it all seems so convenient. Card companies give promises of “frictionless” transactions and “speeding” through checkouts. You don’t need to carry cash or worry about theft – and increasingly, you don’t need to carry a card or even remember a PIN. Digital banking apps also allow you to monitor every penny you spend. But is it only monitoring what you spend? 

The move towards a cashless society creates the inevitability of more granular surveillance than ever before. When everywhere you travel, everywhere you eat, everything you buy and every service you pay for is digitally recorded, your behaviour can be more easily scrutinised whether by your bank, your spouse or the state. Every penny of irregular income, whether a few quid from eBay or a family loan, will leave a digital trace. ... Continue reading >>>

In a system of total financial surveillance, fraud, financial crime, black markets and tax evasion could theoretically be eliminated. As such, HMRC has already drastically ramped up its digital surveillance operation. HMRC’s big data “Connect” system collects over a billion items of data from 30 sources – including tax returns, interest on bank accounts, online marketplaces and social media – to conduct a matching analysis of 800 million monthly credit and debit card payments. Yet as part of this, HMRC unlawfully collected over 5 million biometric voiceprints via its helpline – it was only after Big Brother Watch raised a complaint with the data watchdog that the Department was ordered to delete them.



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