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 all the things from public transit to groceries, to Starbucks espresso. It’s an unimaginable fee answer that’s utilized by virtually everybody within the metropolis.

However as tons of of hundreds 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 gentle.

Protestors in Hong Kong are ready in line to pay money for a single-use card relatively then use an Octopus card that’s tied to their financial institution accounts and identification. Their concern, as QZ journalist Mary Hui notes, is that the federal government will observe their knowledge 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 cellphone and reveal their contacts.

Potential privateness considerations are an enormous draw back for cashless expertise. Whereas digital funds could make issues extra handy for the individuals 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 all the things from house and private loans to public transportation.

Examples like this are one other argument in opposition to the push for cashless programs.

Certainly, as some cities within the U.S. take into account — or enact — bans on cashless shops, firms are shifting their insurance policies on develop the expertise. Philadelphia turned the primary metropolis to ban cashless shops in March and the state of New Jersey shortly adopted go well with. 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 benefit of use promised by built-in digital fee programs may be coupled with more and more refined types of surveillance. Locking residents in to a mannequin the place all monetary transactions may be tracked — or are intrinsically linked — to a smartphone, could also be nice for governments, but it surely’s probably horrible for democracy and its assist at no cost speech and meeting.


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