A cashless society will destroy our privacy and freedom
Big data quickly propels us into a world in which a person’s purchasing power is determined by his demographics and Internet behavior.
The real threat to technology is already coming. No, she was not shown in Ridley Scott's dystopia Blade Runner. Big data coming from e-commerce, especially in China, is quickly moving us into a world in which the purchasing power of a person and his value to the consumer system can be determined by his demography, online behavior and previous choices.
Imagine that the totality of data about you, and not your money, authoritatively determines what you can and can not own now and in the future. This is similar to the science fiction story of Philip Dick, in which factories intuitively deliver goods and services to your home so that you do not even need to click on buttons in the online store.
However, forcing Hong Kong residents to submit to the onset of a cashless economy or digital currency will not be as easy as government regulators and technologists believe. The Hong Kong people have always zealously guarded their privacy, and especially their personal business affairs. Long before China became an economic center, when Hong Kong was the center of Chinese capitalism, they formed a strong culture of secret cash transactions.
Residents of the mainland [ mainlanders, as the Chinese call Hong Kong - approx. perev. ] have already accepted digital, non-cash payments, but all the time it seems to me that they trustingly and naively changed privacy to convenience. Smartphones allow for unprecedented data collection.
But the inhabitants of the mainland experienced and lived under the rule of a one-party system, in an authoritarian state. Private life has never been important in their daily routine or culture. The people never engaged in self-government, since only party members can vote for party leaders.
You cannot imagine the work of mobile payments in China until you try it yourself. I was shopping at a grocery store in Guangzhou, and the cashier was already holding a scanner, ready to read my QR code. When I told her that I was paying in cash, she was surprised that someone else was using bills and coins. Some stores in China already have signs that say we don’t accept cash.
But there is one more, ominous and deep-seated motive in order to make people refuse cash. A cashless economy allows the government to fully control your money in the bank. The government can introduce a negative interest rate, as in Japan, and in this way receive money from accounts without any problems.
Most people do not know that an ordinary person does not have a constitutional, legal or just precedent right to open a bank account or use banking services. My inbox is bursting with complaints from former HSBC customers whose accounts were closed after they had been dealing with them for decades. The only explanations for them were the unflappable legal letters from the bank.
In modern society, it is almost impossible to exist and function without a bank account or credit card. But in a non-cash community you are completely financially rejected - left to the mercy of fate, like a non-citizen without a person.
So the bank bankruptcy due to the panic withdrawal of a lot of money from the accounts, as happened with the Chinese bank Linshan in August , will never happen in a cashless society, since there will be no money in the banks. Inexperienced residents of the mainland will receive such knowledge in a hard way, when during the first financial crisis for them they will not be able to extract their accumulations from the system.
Americans believe that the only true defense of your personal freedom in modern society is to own cash and weapons (despite the recent Las Vegas massacre ). As with most varieties of freedom, you understand that you have lost only when it is taken from you.
In Hong Kong, not so long ago you could see customers at the tellers' windows depositing money into their accounts with suitcases containing packs of thousand-dollar bills. The depositor waited patiently while the cashier fed packs of dollars to a counting machine, which cracked like a machine gun.
I recall how many years ago I visited the Jockey Club on the night of the races, and my companion put on his account a suitcase of money. He drank his cognac while the money counted. I asked if he wanted to follow the cashier. He replied: “This is the Jockey Club. They can always be trusted. ” This was the level of social trust in Hong Kong needed to operate a cash economy.
Hong Kong residents zealously defended their right to use cash and profit. The year 1997 came, and 20 years later, the idea of the eternal and unchanging order of Hong Kong no longer seems so real. Especially when the government wants to recklessly follow the Chinese trend of mobile payments.
Such a futuristic world is supposed to free people. But it essentially eliminates privacy, free will and just freedom. As saidMarshall McLuhan [ Canadian philosopher, philologist and literary critic, researcher of the impact of communication on a person, author of the concept of a “ global village ” - approx. perev. ] about the global big data village: "The more data banks record data about each of us, the less we exist."
Peter Guy - Journalist, Financial Specialist, Former International Banker