Two reports have made me seriously wonder whether ordinary people care any longer about the last shreds of privacy remaining to them.
The first report, ” Silicon Valley’s final frontier for mobile payments — ‘the neoliberal takeover of the human body’ “, examines the use of physical features and attributes as a payment mechanism.
Biometric mobile wallets – payment technologies using our faces, fingerprints or retinas – already exist. Notable technology companies including Apple and Amazon await a day when a critical mass of consumers is sufficiently comfortable walking into a store and paying for goods without a card or device … Removing the last physical barrier – smartphones, watches, smart glasses and credit cards – between our bodies and corporate America is the final frontier in mobile payments.
There’s more at the link.
The second article, “This ID Scanner Company is Collecting Sensitive Data on Millions of Bargoers” has worrying echoes of Big Brother – but it’s a private company, without statutory authority.
The PatronScan kiosk, placed at the entrance of a bar or nightlife establishment, can verify whether an ID is real or fake, and collect and track basic customer demographic data. For bars, accurate ID scanners are valuable tools that help weed out underage drinkers, protecting the establishments’ liquor licenses from fines and scrupulous state alcohol boards. But PatronScan’s main selling point is security.
The system allows a business to maintain a record of bad customer behavior and flag those individuals, alerting every other bar that uses PatronScan. What constitutes “bad behavior” is at a bar manager’s discretion, and ranges from “sexual assault” to “violence” to “public drunkenness” and “other.” When a bargoer visits another PatronScan bar and swipes their ID, their previously flagged transgressions will pop up on the kiosk screen. Unless patrons successfully appeal their status to PatronScan or the bar directly, their status can follow them for anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months, to much, much longer. According to a PatronScan “Public Safety Report” from May 2018, the average length of bans handed out to customers in Sacramento, California was 19 years.
The same report indicates that PatronScan collected and retained information on over 10,000 patrons in Sacramento in a single day. Within a five month period, that added up to information on over 500,000 bargoers. PatronScan claims to have a networked list of more than 40,000 banned customers, many of whom may not even know about their eighty-sixed status until they try to gain entry into another bar covered by the system.
Again, more at the link.
What happens when data aggregators put all that information together, along with all the other data harvested about us from all other sources? You get a corporate equivalent of China’s “social credit” system – but with no accountability.
The most disturbing attribute of a social credit system is not that it’s invasive, but that it’s extralegal. Crimes are punished outside the legal system, which means no presumption of innocence, no legal representation, no judge, no jury, and often no appeal. In other words, it’s an alternative legal system where the accused have fewer rights.
Social credit systems are an end-run around the pesky complications of the legal system. Unlike China’s government policy, the social credit system emerging in the U.S. is enforced by private companies. If the public objects to how these laws are enforced, it can’t elect new rule-makers.
An increasing number of societal “privileges” related to transportation, accommodations, communications, and the rates we pay for services (like insurance) are either controlled by technology companies or affected by how we use technology services. And Silicon Valley’s rules for being allowed to use their services are getting stricter.
If current trends hold, it’s possible that in the future a majority of misdemeanors and even some felonies will be punished not by Washington, D.C., but by Silicon Valley. It’s a slippery slope away from democracy and toward corporatocracy.
In other words, in the future, law enforcement may be determined less by the Constitution and legal code, and more by end-user license agreements.
If this doesn’t worry you, it should.
- What happens when you’re refused car insurance, because you won’t allow the insurance company to install a monitoring device in the vehicle that constantly records how you drive, and who’s behind the wheel?
- What happens when you aren’t allowed to buy something important because you insist on using an “antiquated” method of payment such as cash or a physical credit card, rather than allow your biometric details to be used to access your bank account?
- What happens when you renew your drivers license, only to be informed that you have to install a breathalyzer device in your vehicle, to prove you’re not drunk before you drive, every time – because you’ve been flagged on a service like Patronscan?
- What happens when you’re refused entry to a business because the owner doesn’t like the fact that you’re known to own guns, and considers you a threat because of that?
Orwell would be horrified at how easily and willingly we’ve allowed ourselves to be taken over by Big Brother.