Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Hong Kong Protests Show Dangers of a Cashless Society - Lesson: never allow any government to do away with cash.

In Hong Kong, most people use a contactless smart card called an "Octopus card" to pay for everything from transit, to parking, and even retail purchases. It's pretty handy: Just wave your tentacular card over the sensor and make your way to the platform.
But no one used their Octopus card to get around Hong Kong during the protests. The risk was that a government could view the central database of Octopus transactions to unmask these democratic ne'er-do-wells. Traveling downtown during the height of the protests? You could get put on a list, even if you just happened to be in the area.
So the savvy subversives turned to cash instead. Normally, the lines for the single-ticket machines that accept cash are populated only by a few confused tourists, while locals whiz through the turnstiles with their fintech wizardry.
But on protest days, the queues teemed with young activists clutching old school paper notes. As one protestor told Quartz: "We're afraid of having our data tracked."
Using cash to purchase single tickets meant that governments couldn't connect activists' activities with their Octopus accounts. It was instant anonymity. Sure, it was less convenient. And one-off physical tickets cost a little more than the Octopus equivalent. But the trade-off of avoiding persecution and jail time was well worth it.
Or, you do something the government doesn't like and the shut down your access to digital money, leaving you absolutely broke.  Or, you get into a tax dispute with the IRS, and they simply take the money they think you owe, and then challenge you to litigate the issue with them.

A cashless society is a tyrant's dream.


  1. Obviously, that's why they want it here, and the fact that no-one will be able to escape any tax.

  2. A cashless society is the banking industry's wet dream, everybody would have to go thru them.

    1. Everyone already does. That's how money works. You think cash is dug out of the ground, or harvested from orchards?


  3. Indeed, it is a tyrant's dream. Especially when they can collect all this information and have no obligation to interpret it correctly.

  4. Dutch government is one step ahead of even the Chinese then. Public transport here is impossible to attain with cash payments. Trains, trams, metros, busses, all electronic payments only.
    On the roads there are cameras everywhere, and they're seriously considering fitting every vehicle with a transmitter that sends its location to government computers every few minutes, ostensibly for billing you for road use but of course also to automatically issue traffic fines and know where everyone is at any time.