Futurology blog: what’s the next trend that’ll disrupt our world, financially, socially or just pointlessly?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Our glorious surveillance paradise

The way it started was that the big chains offered small discounts for card purchases. But of course now we know it was really a Trojan horse: suddenly it was turned around so that the real price was the card-payment price and you paid a surcharge for cash payments.

As different ways emerged for paying cashlessly for small purchases, the banks followed by making us pay more and more for depositing and withdrawing cash.

The government was right behind the trend, the less cash in circulation, the less opportunity to evade taxation. And then, of course, all new cards began to be issued with RFIDs: after all, the banks were losing fortunes to users of cloned and stolen cards and they wanted a way to track them down.

Naturally, all the log data on RFID-tracked movements of cardholders had to be accessible to any government agency that asked for it: MI5, the police, the DSS … it soon turned out that schools were using the data to find out whether applicants for scarce school places really lived where they said they did. (And if you remember, by this point WiFi-enabled RFID readers could be placed pretty much anywhere, seeing as how you could buy them from any electronics shop.)

And then, under the Freedom of Information Act, all sorts of non-government organizations and individuals realized they could obtain the information too: employers, spouses, parents, litigants. A free-for-all.

But hey: if you weren’t breaking the law, if you weren’t concealing some dark secret, what was the problem? Only a menace to society would object to a card-based, RFID-tracked economy. And the advantages were so obvious: more efficient management of the economy, less tax evasion, less underage drinking and dropping crime figures.

And combining the RFID system with mobile phone logs and CCTV cameras proved a bonanza to local authorities: all the laws that people used to break unthinkingly on a daily basis – jaywalking (became a crime in 2011), minor littering, trespass, stopping in no-stopping zones, etc – could now be enforced in a contracted-out, automated and highly efficient fashion. Do you remember when the enforcement agencies eventually won the right to simply siphon the money out of our bank accounts instead of having to wait for us to get around to paying the fines?

Somewhere along the line huge numbers of people decided to leave the country: people who weren’t comfortable with being monitored on a 24-hour-a-day basis. Remember that scandal when it was discovered that home CCTV cameras that people had hooked up to check up on their kids online were being snooped on by the police? And how, when the matter was taken to court, the police won?

The latest? Because random stress-related violence has become so common, this latest directive from the government: personal stress monitors linked to our mobile phones – sending out an automatic distress signal for interception by roaming peace keepers as well as making over-stressed people ineligible to board public transport. Isn’t it finally time to **THOUGHT CRIME IN PROCESS : APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED**

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