Anybody who has traveled to Hong Kong is aware of how ubiquitous the Octopus Card is. Distributed by an organization which is majority owned by the Hong Kong authorities, the playing cards are used to pay for every thing from public transit to groceries, to Starbucks espresso. It’s an unimaginable fee answer that’s utilized by nearly everybody within the metropolis.
However as tons of of 1000’s of individuals collect within the metropolis middle to protest in opposition to proposed rules that residents view as tearing down the final protections in opposition to the authoritarian management of mainland China, those self same residents are viewing their Octopus playing cards in a distinct mild.
Protestors in Hong Kong are ready in line to pay money for a single-use card moderately then use an Octopus card that’s tied to their financial institution accounts and id. Their concern, as QZ journalist Mary Hui notes, is that the federal government will monitor their information and site.
Already, China’s safety equipment are leaning on residents. In a single occasion they allegedly requested that the organizer of a big Telegram group open their telephone and reveal their contacts.
Potential privateness considerations are an enormous draw back for cashless know-how. Whereas digital funds could make issues extra handy for the folks that may afford it, it opens up new avenues for presidency or company surveillance and monitoring.
On the mainland, the Chinese language authorities is already experimenting with social credit score scoring that may have an effect on a citizen’s entry to every thing from residence and private loans to public transportation.
Examples like this are one other argument in opposition to the push for cashless methods.
Certainly, as some cities within the U.S. contemplate — or enact — bans on cashless shops, firms are shifting their insurance policies on methods to develop the know-how. Philadelphia turned the primary metropolis to ban cashless shops in March and the state of New Jersey rapidly adopted swimsuit. Different cities contemplating the bans embrace New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
As nations like China and India push to go cashless, it’s value noting that the convenience of use promised by built-in digital fee methods could be coupled with more and more refined types of surveillance. Locking residents in to a mannequin the place all monetary transactions could be tracked — or are intrinsically linked — to a smartphone, could also be nice for governments, nevertheless it’s doubtlessly horrible for democracy and its help at no cost speech and meeting.