Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NJ Transit Ushers in Cashless Society with Google Wallet App for Smartphone Payment

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
October 31, 2011
Just a few weeks ago, the New Jersey transportation authority announced the most recent Orwellian Big Brother policy under the guise of greater traveler convenience; a cover story for privacy intrusion that is becoming more and more popular when attempting to introduce the hi-tech police state security grid.

Unfortunately, however, it is a policy that will no doubt appeal to a generation raised without respect for privacy, anonymity, or freedom from electronic tagging and surveillance. 

This “experiment” is the first public initiative of its kind, and is taking place in the third largest transit system in the country, with “165 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 19,000 bus stops in areas in New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia.” 

In her article for Government Technology, NJ Transit Commuters Use Smartphones to Make Purchases, Sarah Rich writes that the New Jersey transportation agency has now implemented a wireless payment plan that allows passengers to wave their smartphones in front of a special sensor in order to purchase a ticket for travel.

The sensor is located on the ticket vending machine and both the train and bus tickets are accessed via Google Wallet – an app that provides for wireless payment capabilities.

The Google Wallet system is also in place in New York Penn Station, Newark Liberty International Airport Rail Station and several other bus lines.

In addition, it has been tentatively scheduled for introduction at the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

The system appears similar to basic barcode systems currently in use. However, the new app uses “near field communication,” a method which allows wireless data transmission to occur between the phone and the sensor when they are placed in close proximity to one another. After the transaction has made, the user receives confirmation on their phone.

Google Wallet is currently compatible with prepaid Google cards (a system that allows users to put money on their Google card from their own personal credit cards) and with Citi MasterCard credit cards. According to the New Jersey transit system, Android devices and additional credit cards will be added in the near future.

Yet, while one may feel hesitant to criticize any technology that presents a more convenient mode of travel, or otherwise makes life easier for the average person, the fact is that this new cell phone app is much more than a natural progression meant to benefit humanity. Indeed, it is just another blatant move toward a centralized cashless society.

Of course, years ago, a statement like this would have frightened people. At the very least, it would have made them think twice about the way they shopped or the way they paid for merchandise. In 2011, however, after generations of Americans have been raised to view privacy as outdated and prudish, the idea of a cashless society apparently doesn’t seem so scary. In fact, to many, it actually sounds like a good idea.

It is an unfortunate fact that, to the vast majority, the downside of going cashless will likely never occur to them until it is too late. A product of constant exposure to television and a systematic dumbing-down of each generation’s education has produced a population who will no doubt be drawn to the new smartphones cashless system as the proverbial moth is drawn to the flame – and with similar results.

Obviously, in a society whose citizens are able to carry and make transactions with cash, there is still some semblance of anonymity available to them. There is still the opportunity to purchase staples such as food and water (via third parties if necessary) even if a system of exclusivity were to be introduced and certain people were prohibited from making purchases directly.

In a cashless system, however, an enormous amount of trust is placed in the hands of the government agencies, banks, and corporations that would then control the money for the “convenience” of the unwitting soul who has sacrificed his own personal responsibility and control for the luxury of his convenience. If even one of these institutions decide, for whatever reason, that the account of the user should be frozen, disconnected, or discontinued, the ability to purchase the basic necessities will disappear. That is, it will disappear if there is no longer the option of cash.

Nevertheless, the path toward a cashless society marches steadily onward, and it does so with the help of the aimless consumer; the very individual who will be victimized when such a society is finally put into place.

Indeed, the systems by which this society will be created are being rolled out en masse as we speak, and the transit ticket machines are only just the beginning.  

An article by Edward C. Baig, published in USA TODAY, entitled, When will we be paying for stuff with our smartphones? briefly examines some of the connections being formed between credit card companies, cell phone companies, and other major corporations.

The article reads:
Instead of fumbling with cash or pulling out a credit card, you whip out a smartphone. Inside the handset are chips that make nice with the store’s register, and a digital wallet app holds virtual replicas of your plastic debit, credit and loyalty cards. You tap the screen to choose which one you want to use to pay for your purchases, then confirm the amount. An instant later, the transaction is complete. 
If the digital future pans out the way that leading banks, credit card issuers, wireless carriers and tech companies hope, scenarios like this could become common.
The article also quotes Amy Schmidt, research director for commercial banking and payments at TowerGroup, as saying, “The promise of the mobile wallet is you’ll be able to manage your entire financial life from a single device.”

Baig continues the article by documenting some of the other, less well-known, introductions of smartphone apps and digital online payments for transactions once reserved for in-person interaction.

For instance, the ISIS mobile connection network (essentially a conglomeration of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless), has signed agreements with American Express, Mastercard, Discover, and VISA in order to produce a rival app to Google Wallet. In fact, Visa’s own project, known as E-wallet, is already completed and is scheduled to be introduced by the end of 2011.

American Express also announced a similar product -- Serve. This is a digital payment platform that allows for person-to-person payments over mobile phones. These payments can also take place online or at merchants who accept American Express cards. American Express recently announced that Sprint and Verizon Wireless would partner with them in this endeavor.

Not to be outdone, international zombie banks such as Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo formed a business venture known as ClearXchange which allows person-to-person payments using email addresses or mobile phone numbers.

Intuit has also created a system that allows merchants receive payments by way of phones or tablets through its GoPayment reader, which turns these devices into credit card readers.

Square, a San Francisco-based company, has developed similar capabilities. Interestingly enough, Square was formed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

After looking at how many different applications and programs are currently being developed and introduced, with absolutely no prior demand from the consuming public, one thing is clear -- there is a coordinated effort to implement these types of cashless, and now even person-less, transactions and to persuade the general public to accept, use, and ultimately, become enslaved by them.

The marketing campaigns attached to these technologies are not so much advertisements as they are culture creation and perception management. The coming cashless society is clearly a top-down system that is being introduced; not one that has emerged from grassroots demand.

Still, there are many who would have a hard time believing that any cashless digital system would be used for anything other than a benevolent purpose. Surely the banks and corporations that have ruined their lives in a myriad of different ways wouldn’t seek to wield any more control over them than they already do. Right?

Unfortunately, anyone who is willing to follow this incredibly naïve way of thinking is in for a rude awakening. The road map is clear. First, this technology will be introduced as a cool, convenient, trendy app, complete with snob appeal, with which to impress your friends. Then, soon after it becomes more affordable, more available, and easier to use, there will be incentives offered (discounts, “credits,” etc.) to entice more and more people to use these methods of payment. Once Google Wallet and all the apps like it become common place, we will begin to see the withering away of “outdated” and “archaic” methods of payment like cash and checks.

However, managing “your entire financial life from a single device” comes with potential pitfalls. This has been highlighted, albeit unintentionally, by those who wish to promote this new wave of transaction.

Indeed, in an effort to promote the use of digital payment apps and to neutralize the security and privacy questions which massively surround their use, the USA TODAY article mentioned above states, “Phones (and apps) can be password-protected. Security elements are built into the NFC chips. It’s easy to remotely shut down a digital wallet if necessary.”

Of course they can. But most of those using such devices rarely question whether that capability will be used for their enslavement. 

When all forms of transactions become cashless, whether they end up on a card  or on a smartphone app, it will only be a short amount of time before banks, corporations, cell phone companies, and governments use the power they have over the users' accounts to force the consumer and the citizen to bend to their will.

It’s not hard to see how the routine will go . . . .

Didn’t pay your bill? We’ll freeze your account until you do.

Didn’t register for the draft? We’ll freeze your account. After all, you can’t enjoy the benefits of living in the free world without pulling your share of the weight. 

Past-due parking tickets?  We’ll freeze your account until you get it all worked out.

Truant children? 

Didn’t take the latest vaccine?  

You get the idea . . .

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