Getting a glimpse at the new world we’re traveling towards.
BROOKLYN, New York- The cashless society is being sold to us as something that will make life more convenient, cleaner, and more secure. But it will also allow corporations and, more than likely, governments to not only track everything we buy but where we buy it and at what time — information they can use at their will or sell to other parties.
I bought a bottle of Essentia water last night at a co-op in Brooklyn. I bought it because it was on sale. I have never done an internet search for Essentia water. I’ve never even conducted a search for anything related to bottle watered at all. However, this morning when I opened up a webpage that I regularly visit there was a massive Google AdWords banner ad for Essentia water.
How did they know I bought this type of bottled water last night?
I thought about it for a moment and realized that I made the purchase with a debit card.
Obviously, the company behind this card is selling my purchase history to advertising outlets in real time. As soon as I make a purchase it’s logged into a massive database and immediately distributed to who knows how many third parties, who can easily track my location, what time I go places, and what I purchase.
How it probably works is connecting my name/profile/personal identification number on the debit card side with the data that AdWords has collected about me via my Google account — I still use Gmail — so my purchases in the real world are seamlessly linked with my online identity.
Now you can say who cares, it’s just a bottle of water? But let’s say what I bought wasn’t water. Let’s say it was beer, liqueur, cigarettes, junk food … Do you really want to provide your existing or potentially future health insurance providers with the justification for raising your rates or denying you coverage? Let’s say it was guns, bullets, or a bong … is there anything stopping landlords from doing a check and denying your rental application? Let’s say you go to a bookstore and by a book on vegetarianism and then some animal rights activist throws a brick through the window of a shop selling fur coats next door later that night. Do you become a suspect?
This isn’t sci-fi anymore. China, the most populated country in the world, for all intents and purposes, is now cashless and has a full-fledged social credit system where every citizen’s character is graded (and provided / denied rights and services based on the score). Europe has cashless stores all over the place. A couple of years ago India suddenly declared 85% of its currency null and void as a shock tactic to force more people to use electronic payment systems. In five or so years expect to see massive PR campaigns against the evils of cash. Expect to soon associate cash transactions with illegality. Cash will soon be criminal.
What we buy is who we are. What we buy gives indicators of our race, our social class, our beliefs, our political views, our health, and what we like to do. This information combined with our online search histories, data scrapped by apps, and what goes up about us on Facebook and other internet sources provides a pretty clear picture of who we are, where we go, what we’ve done, what we believe, who we associate with, and what we may do in the future.
Remember that movie about preemptive crime fighting?
What’s your definition of freedom?