The debate between cash and digital payments has been going on for some time. The anti-cash crowd, including Harvard Professor Ken Rogoff, claim that cash is unnecessary, facilitates tax evasion and other criminal acts and must be wiped out to allow the imposition of negative interest rates.
The pro-cash forces say that cash is needed by those too poor or too unsophisticated to manage bank accounts. Cash also comes in handy during power outages and natural disasters when digital systems don’t work. Cash helps to maintain privacy, avoids bank freezes and permits a degree of personal liberty.
That debate will continue, despite the fact that digital payments seem to be winning the day. Meanwhile, the digital payments crowd have taken things a step further. As reported in this article, thousands of Swedes have elected to have microchips implanted under their skin to act as digital wallets and payments systems.
These microchips contain both information on the users’ bank accounts, personal health and personal profile as well as monitoring devices to track financial payments, heartbeats, blood pressure and personal information. Users love the convenience. There’s no more reaching for wallets, credit cards or cash. They simply wave their hand near a scanner that reads the needed information from the microchip transmitter and the transaction is complete.
Yet there’s a dark side to this technology that the implant users seem not to have considered. If a merchant can read your microchip, so can the government or a hacker simply by getting in close proximity. If the government wishes to track your whereabouts or subject you to arrest, it’s relatively easy to place scanners on buses or taxis or in restaurants to identify you.
Even if drastic surveillance is not imposed, scanning the microchips can result in everything from targeted advertising to political propaganda based on your “profile.” Promises of encryption and privacy are meaningless. Users of the chips are trading temporary convenience for permanent surveillance by big business and Big Brother.
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