How Mass Surveillance and Cashless Economy help each other

The cashless society is getting closer every day. Many are happy to completely abandon bills and coins, arguing that it is convenient and safe: in the new world, no one will pull your wallet out of your pocket, and criminals will not be able to exchange suitcases full of bills on the black market. Some, however, think otherwise, and their fears seem to be well founded.

A 2018 survey conducted by Osborne Clarke among residents of the United Kingdom found that a large proportion of those surveyed are greatly concerned about data privacy and security with regards to cashless payments. And rightly so: when promoting a cashless society, its supporters tend to overlook the price which is to be paid for all the convenience. There is nothing surprising — digital payments are indeed convenient… for banks and governments. The former don’t need to spend money on branches and ATMs, and it becomes much easier for state agencies to execute mass surveillance justified by the fight against criminals. In the pursuit of profit, propagandists use nudging techniques, emphasizing the positives of the cashless society and forcibly reducing the use of cash. As a result, some important issues remain unspoken, and we will discuss them in more detail below.

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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