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The Ominous March Toward a Surveillance-Dominated Future
An Update on Digital IDs, Surveilled Finance, and the Arrival of Carbon Passports
The UN Development Agency, UNDP, has unveiled its governance framework for digital public infrastructure, aiming for all 190+ member nations to align with this vision. This latest UN policy, rooted in the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, continues a trend of contested initiatives backed by the organization.
UNDP, in a recent post on its website, presented the digital ID framework as a response to “requests for institutional support.” It extolled its inclusive approach and commitment to upholding civil and legal rights.
For those countries and their current governments that opt to follow the UN's lead on digital public infrastructure, which encompasses digital IDs, the recommended framework includes nine key points: legal and regulatory frameworks, non-discrimination, access to information, legal accountability, capable institutions, user value, procurement and anti-corruption measures, and data protection.
The “Sustainable Development” agenda, in this context, revolves around universal civil registration at birth, with a strong emphasis on digital records going forward. The UN envisions that the current system has shortcomings, and therefore, it insists that digital versions adopted by governments worldwide must establish robust governance from the outset. The UNDP underscores the importance of developing standards, rules, and privacy protocols that facilitate the comprehensive digitization of public services.
As the UN emphasizes the importance of robust governance for digitized civil registration and public services, the Washington based Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) is simultaneously advocating for increased investment in digital public infrastructure (DPI), with a specific focus on digital ID and beyond mere technology funding.
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Presently, DPI projects can anticipate receiving a commitment of $400 million by the end of this decade from various stakeholders. DIAL's advocacy emphasizes a continuous expenditure in advancing its mission, leveraging what it deems as "trustworthy" messengers, including civil societies and academics. This approach not only ensures financial support but also fosters their active participation in governance and the design and implementation of various DPI initiatives.
DIAL's board comprises influential figures such as the director of USAI, an organization recognized for its involvement in establishing digital IDs in Ukraine, the president and CEO of the UN Foundation, and a senior adviser from the Gates Foundation.
In an expert commentary published in late September, DIAL underscores the need for sustainable financing and asserts that this approach will not only benefit businesses and economies but also individuals.
Apart from its experiences in places like Ukraine, DIAL draws insights from a report conducted in Sierra Leone, Africa, and other sources. It gleaned perspectives from 25 groups and entities, including government representatives from these countries, the Gates Foundation, UNDP, the World Bank, and the Africa Digital Rights Hub.
DIAL's overarching goal is to construct a “positive digital future for all individuals globally,” with a target timeframe of (surprise) 2030. It aligns its mission with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), asserting that digital components, including contentious digital IDs, will play a crucial role in “reducing poverty and fostering stronger economies worldwide.”
UNDP's and DIAL’s aspiration is to consolidate the endeavors of various national governments by offering a uniform model. Although this serves as a compelling press release, it certainly is somewhat utopian in reality. UNDP asserts its commitment to prioritizing individual and human rights, along with inclusion, in the context of digital ID adoption. However, these claims appear hollow given the current realities of digital ID adoption.
Let's examine the implementation of the digital ID system in countries where it's already in use. France, in November 2019, took the lead as the first European nation to integrate facial recognition technology into a nationwide digital identity system for its citizens. This government initiative, although touted as “marvelous,” operates through biometrics and theoretically grants access to roughly 500 government websites. Furthermore, physical ID cards now feature a mandatory 'electronic chip' (with scant details provided by the French government) and a QR-Code capable of storing a wide range of information about the cardholder – an oddly convenient timing, just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a bid to validate this remarkable new ID system, Citizenship Minister Marlène Schiappa informed Le Parisien that nearly 30,000 people have fallen prey to identity theft, constituting a mere 0.05%. That number is notably insignificant, hardly raising concerns for anyone. It appears that privacy and security may not be the foremost reasons of the French government to implement this system.
DIAL emphasizes the importance of allocating funds for the coordination of efforts among ministries. It underscores the necessity of early engagement with communities, particularly those more likely to be excluded from digital advancements. This emphasis on early engagement resonates with the World Bank's stance, as seen during its previous ID4Africa conference, showcasing a coordinated effort between DIAL and the World Bank. But how do these “early engagements” with communities “more likely to be excluded from digital advancements” actually play out?
India, another country that has already implemented a digital ID system, has experienced concerning issues with its ‘Aadhaar’ biometric program. Reports have started to emerge, recounting instances where citizens were denied access to vital services like welfare programs due to Aadhaar-related glitches. Tragically, these individuals suffered from starvation because they were deprived of the government aid to which they were rightfully entitled. It's a rather unconventional approach to reducing the population, to say the least.
The program was launched in 2009 with the ambitious objective of providing every single Indian citizen with a unique, biometrically verified identification number. By the close of 2019, an estimated 1.2 billion Indians were enrolled in the program. To gain access to the system, users undergo iris and/or fingerprint scanning, obtaining a distinctive 12-digit number connected to their biometric and demographic information. This number is indispensable for various tasks, such as marriage, opening a bank account, tax payments, creating a digital wallet, or even signing up for a mobile phone contract. Those who opt to avoid this process find themselves effectively excluded from essential societal functions.
China not only serves as the model for the social system expected to spread to the Western world in the near future but also stands as the most advanced authoritarian Technocratic State to date. In a 2019 study conducted by Comparitech, it was revealed that eight of the top ten most surveilled cities in the world are situated in China, with London being the notable exception, ranking third. By the end of 2022, projections indicate that China will have one public closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera for every two people, with the “Skynet” system already accounting for 200 million cameras in 2019, indicating a rapid expansion.
Moreover, the Chinese government has embarked on the collection of DNA samples from its citizens to construct a comprehensive DNA database. Since 2019, all 854 million internet users in China are mandated to use facial recognition when applying for new internet or mobile services.
As if these measures weren't extensive enough, there is the ongoing rollout of the nationwide social credit system, closely tied to a Chinese citizen's digital ID. In 2009, the government initiated trials for a national reputation system based on an individual's economic and social standing, known as “social credit.” This score is employed to either reward or penalize specific behaviors. By late 2021, Chinese citizens were seeing deductions in their scores for dishonest or fraudulent financial conduct, playing loud music, eating on public transportation, jaywalking, running red lights, failing to attend doctor appointments, missing job interviews or hotel reservations without canceling, and mishandling waste sorting. To boost their scores, citizens can engage in activities such as blood donations, contributions to CCP-approved charities, volunteering for community service, and participating in “other activities” sanctioned by the government. Consequently, the Chinese government has initiated the denial of plane and high-speed rail ticket purchases to millions of individuals with low social credit scores, labeling them as “untrustworthy.”
It's becoming increasingly convenient for our Western governments to package these changes in the names of climate protection, equality, and anti-racism. Consider this: purchasing an electric car earns you points, while opting for a gas vehicle leaves you out in the cold. Expressing opinions or questions that an all-seeing AI deems remotely racist on social media might result in losing your internet access, now intricately linked to your digital ID. These are changes that may soon become part of our reality.
Additionally, serious concerns are surfacing regarding the trajectory of the US financial system, along with the actions of associated tech companies, and the latest voice to raise these alarms is Rohit Chopra, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Chopra went to great lengths to express his apprehensions during an event named “Making America's Payment System Work for a Digital Century.” He stated that the current trajectory is “lurching toward” a surveillance model akin to China's.
Chopra strongly believes that without the implementation of new regulations, the financial landscape could become dominated by an increasingly smaller number of financial firms and tech companies involved in payment processing, wielding disproportionate control.
The core of Chopra's concerns, as he articulated, lies in the extensive collection of individuals' personal financial data, and he is intent on curbing this trend. His proposed solution involves the introduction of rules that would govern how payment services handle and report the use of personal data, extending to “private currencies,” including digital currencies.
Chopra contends that this is imperative because these private entities have now amassed an unprecedented amount of data, granting them substantial influence over Americans' financial decisions. The CFPB is alarmed that continued inaction might lead to “excessive” surveillance and potentially “financial censorship,” mirroring some of the conditions present in China.
One proposed rule would authorize the CFPB to directly oversee non-bank platforms catering to the financial sector to curtail surveillance opportunities.
To underscore his point, Chopra cited examples of how Chinese giants like Alibaba and WeChat operate, providing cautionary tales for what the US might face.
Chopra also addressed digital currencies, with a specific focus on the US Treasury's stablecoin and the associated risks in terms of surveillance and the potential for “destabilizing runs on the token.” He advocates for new rules mandating tech companies to divulge “more information” about their business models and policies related to launching new digital currencies. Additionally, he calls for his agency to conduct new examinations of these tech companies.
A glimpse into what lies ahead is the extensive de-banking wave that has surged through Canada, affecting more than 800 citizens since 2018, among them hundreds who rallied behind the Freedom Convoy movement. Newly acquired data through an access-to-information request by Blacklock's Reporter exposes a concerning pattern where 837 individuals had their bank accounts unceremoniously terminated over a span of five years.
These actions came to the attention of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada due to complaints lodged with regulatory authorities, exposing a financial squeeze that extended beyond cases related to confirmed terrorism and money laundering.
A closer examination of the numbers exposes the tightening grip on 267 bank accounts and 170 Bitcoin wallets associated with supporters of the Freedom Convoy, with approximately $7.8 million at stake. This practice of financial censorship came under scrutiny during a hearing on March 7, 2022, during which Angelina Mason, representing the Bankers Association, testified. Mason explained that while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) provided a list of names, banks were also under separate orders to use their discretion in identifying account holders for de-banking.
The situation became even more complex when New Democrat MP Daniel Blaikie inquired about the fate of individuals who were de-banked but were not included on the list provided to the RCMP, to which Mason's concise response was a resounding “Yes.”
The digital ID agenda is already on the horizon, but it doesn't end there. The next significant proposal is the introduction of digital carbon passports. Travel enthusiasts worldwide could soon face a significant shift in international exploration due to the alleged impacts of “global warming.” In a recently published report, Intrepid Travel predicts the implementation of carbon passports that may curtail their wanderlust.
These passports, often referred to as “personal carbon allowances” in the report, would essentially act as determinants compelling individuals to adhere to the global carbon budget. As early as 2040, restrictions on annual travel are expected to come into effect, potentially forcing travelers to forgo the expansive horizons typically associated with modern tourism. The report, developed in collaboration with the forecasting agency The Future Laboratory, highlights the alleged consequences of climate change on popular summer destinations like Greece and Mallorca, which are said to “become excessively hot for human habitation.”
The introduction of carbon passports raises legitimate privacy concerns regarding the level of surveillance imposed on individuals' movements and actions. One cannot help but wonder if these measures might serve as precursors to invasive surveillance, continuously tracking individuals' carbon footprints.
As governments and corporations rush to address “climate issues”, the delicate balance between necessary action and potential privacy infringement becomes increasingly blurred. While these policies may present themselves as a necessary evil for the greater good, they could encroach upon personal freedoms and confidentiality, potentially undermining democratic principles.
As individuals, we have the choice to opt out of mandatory and social credit systems. The challenge, or the opportunity, depending on your perspective, is that many people around us are opting in. It's likely that these individuals will not only immerse themselves in the “greater good” but also choose not to associate with those who possess low social credit scores. They might say things like, “I care about you, but if my score drops any lower, I won't be able to take my family to the Bahamas this summer,” or “I won't be eligible for a loan, a car purchase, or access to public parks,” and so forth. This illustrates the potency of social engineering. These individuals may be lost, and attempting to persuade them can be fruitless. In Plato's allegory of the cave, they are the ones who might try to thwart you when you return from the cave's entrance to share your discoveries. They struggle to detach from the world of falsehoods and immediate gratification in which they've found comfort.
The Technocratic state is expanding globally, and this means that in the very near future, you will face crucial decisions:
Will you consent to mandatory facial recognition for travel?
Will you acquiesce to biometrics for continued access to government services?
Will you use biometrics on your smart devices, which the government could compel you to use to unlock your most private data? Or will you educate yourself on privacy and encryption and assert your rights?
Will you grant your car insurance company access to your location for a discounted rate?
Will you permit your health insurance provider to link to your Apple Health App for enhanced service?
Will you rely on fingerprints to unlock your home?
Will you persist in using social media with your real name and sharing all your personal memories and thoughts?
Will you persist in uploading photos of yourself and others, allowing Clearview AI to scan them and populate their databases?
Will you persist in believing that you have nothing to hide?
Your answers to these questions will likely shape your future.
The true power to shape this world has always lain in your hands. Choose well!
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