Cashless payments rise, financial surveillance grows

Cashless payments rise, financial surveillance grows

As Australia’s push towards a cashless society increases amidst coronavirus restrictions, many remain unaware the transition comes with risks to civil liberties. An increasingly digital world… BEIJING – Domestic air travel in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, authorities say. A roundup of all the mining news in the precious metals sector with a variety of company news, mining sector analysis, newsletter writer insights and executive interviews.

As Australia’s push towards a cashless society increases amidst coronavirus restrictions, many remain unaware the transition comes with risks to civil liberties.

An increasingly digital world endangers privacy and, by extension, the freedom to buy what you want without having to worry about who might be watching over your shoulder.


A banknote has been sitting in my wallet for six months now. As time ticks on, it burns an ever greater hole in my pocket.

At first I felt uneasy spending it, following COVID-19 warnings to pay more attention to hand hygiene and the surfaces we all touch on a daily basis.

Now I have less and less opportunity to do so. While the World Health Organisation has never advised against using cash, more and more businesses are displaying signs that read ‘We Only Accept Contactless Payment’ next to their registers.

A recent international poll conducted by MasterCard — a company with reason to favour card-based payments — found 82% of its users see contactless payments as cleaner than cash.

Online shopping is booming too. Amazon’s value alone has risen by 570 billion US dollars this year.

But while electronic payment may reduce our exposure to germs, it also shows banks, vendors and payment platforms what we do with our money.

Social media is awash with posts condemning the forced use of contactless payment for fear of overseers eyeballing spending. Some people are even boycotting stores that won’t accept cash.

We all know it is convenient to just tap your phone or card on a machine. But don’t do it. Take out cash and insist on using that. If you get to a checkout and they say cashless only then remind them that is illegal. Cash is crucial to stop the social credit system

The growth of digital transactions exposes yet another aspect of our personal life to, what the social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff has called, “surveillance capitalism”. Financial data is now a valuable raw material that can be bought, sold and refined in the name of profit.

When the pandemic began, cash had already been on the decline for years. In Australia, demand for coins fell by more than 50% between 2013 and 2019.

For many people, increasing digitisation is synonymous with progress. It can be seen as a way of leaving the cumbersome, historical artefacts of coins and banknotes behind.

COVID-19 has accelerated this move away from cash. Wariness of microbe-ridden banknotes has seen contactless payment become a spontaneous public health standard.

Because cash is a social material, it moves between us, connecting us both financially and physically. The US Federal Reserve even decided to quarantine dollars returning from Asia earlier this year in an attempt to stop the coronavirus crossing its borders.

One perk of paper money is that it does not leave paper trails. Digital money, however, leaves traces in the databases of banks, vendors and platform owners, while governments look keenly over their shoulders.

Financial journalist Brett Scott calls this a “prison of watchable payments”.

Tax officials love digital transactions because they make it easier to monitor the nation’s economy. Banks and payment platforms are pleased as well: not only do they collect fees and gain the ability to allow or obstruct transactions, they can also profit from the troves of personal data piling up on their servers.

Internally, banks use this data to offer you other bespoke services such as loans and insurance. But information is also aggregated to better understand wider economic trends, and then sold on to third parties.

At the moment, these data metrics are anonymised but that doesn’t guard against retailers using de-anonymising techniques to attach transactions back to your identity.

Data brokers exist for this very reason: building digital profiles and creating a marketplace for them. This allows retailers to target you with tailored advertisements based on your spending. The devices at everyone’s fingertips become a feedback loop of information in which companies analyse what people have bought and then urge them to buy more.

Having records of every transaction can also be useful for individuals. Companies such as Revolut and Monzo offer ‘spending analytics’ services to help customers manage their money by tracking where it goes each month.

But information about a user’s own behaviour never truly belongs to them. And, as the digital economist Nick Srnicek explains, “suppression of privacy is at the heart of the business model”.

While filling virtual baskets or paying by tapping a card does open up transactions for inspection, there are still ways you can protect your health and your data at the same time.

“Virtual cards” like those provided by are one useful tool. These services let users create multiple card numbers for different online purchases that conceal consumption patterns from banks and credit card details from merchants.

Cryptocurrencies might also find a new limelight in the pandemic. Hailed as cash for the internet, the inbuilt privacy mechanisms of Bitcoin, Zcash and Monero could work to mask transactions.

However, finding companies that accept them is challenging, and their privacy capabilities are often overstated for everyday users. This is particularly true when using exchanges and third-party wallet software such as Coinbase.

In brick-and-mortar stores, staying under the radar can be more difficult. Prepaid cards are one option — but you’ll need to buy the card itself with cash if you want to keep your anonymity fully intact.

And that takes us back to square one.

By Jack Parkin, Digital Economist at Western Sydney University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Author: By TOTT News

The Latest: Domestic air travel recovers in Wuhan, China

The Latest: Domestic air travel recovers in Wuhan, China

BEIJING – Domestic air travel in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, authorities say.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan late last year and the city underwent a draconian 76-day lockdown as its hospitals struggled to deal with a tidal wave of cases that required the rapid construction of field hospitals to handle the overflow.

Since re-opening in early April, life has gradually returned to normal and numbers of domestic flights serving the city, as well as the number of passengers, had both fully recovered, according to the operator of Wuhan Tianhe International airport. It said 64,700 passengers were transported aboard 500 domestic flights on Friday.

The airport is preparing to eventually resume international passenger flights to destinations such as Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, Qu Xiaoni, an airport representative was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

International cargo routes have already re-opened connecting the major industrial city and center of the Chinese auto industry with destinations such as Amsterdam and New Delhi.

China has gone almost a month without registering a new case of local transmission and on Sunday, the National Health Commission reported just 10 new cases, all of them imported. Hospitals are treating 151 people for COVID-19 and another 357 people are in isolation after testing positive for the disease without showing any symptoms, the commission said. China has reported a total of 85,184 cases of COVID-19 with 4,634 deaths.



– North and South Dakotas lead US in virus growth; both governors reject mask rules

– The pandemic disrupted college sports again Saturday, with Virginia and Virginia Tech postponing their Sept. 19 football opener because of coronavirus issues at Virginia Tech.

– Oxford University says trials of a coronavirus vaccine its developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will resume, days after a pause due to a reported side-effect in a U.K. patient.

– India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has crossed 4.6 million after a record surge of 97,570 new cases in 24 hours. India reported another 1,201 deaths Saturday, bringing total deaths to 77,472, the third highest in the world.

– Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at and



FRANKFORT, Ky. – A prominent Kentucky infectious disease specialist who was hailed by the governor as a “front line hero” has died after a nearly four-month battle against COVID-19.

Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, who tested positive for the virus on May 13, died on Friday night, Med Center Health in Bowling Green said. Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted Saturday that he was “heartbroken” to hear of her death and urged people to follow her advice and “wear a mask in her honor.”

Connie Smith, president and CEO of Med Center Health, said Shadowen “will forever be remembered as a nationally recognized expert who provided the very best care for our patients and community. She was a dear friend to many.”

Before contracting the virus, Shadowen led Med Center Health’s work in National Institute of Health trials of patients’ treatment for the virus, according to media reports.

Shadowen had said she believed she contracted the virus after an elderly family member received care at home from an infected caregiver.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate in its ability to penetrate our homes and communities,” Shadowen said when announcing in the spring that she had tested positive for the virus.

While battling the virus, she surprised members of the Bowling Green–Warren County Coronavirus Workgroup by joining in a conference call, telling the group: “It’s a great day to be alive.” She stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public.

In his social media tribute Saturday, Beshear referred to Shadowen as a “front line hero who worked tirelessly to protect the lives of others.”


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri has topped 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ coronavirus dashboard cited 1,974 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 101,134. The true number is likely much higher since many people with the virus go undiagnosed.

The state also added three new deaths. All told, 1,704 Missourians have died from COVID-19.

The number of cases in the state is growing at a rate faster than most places. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that over the seven-day period of Sept. 4-10, Missouri saw the nation’s sixth-highest number of new cases.


PHOENIX – Arizona Department of Health Services officials on Saturday reported more than 600 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 27 additional deaths as the state’s coronavirus outbreak continues to slow.

The additional 605 cases increased the statewide total to 208,128 as the death toll increased to 5,315.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations reported by the department continued to drop, a trend that began in July after the state became a national hot spot in June.

Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press showed drops in seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths over the past two weeks.

The average of daily new cases went from 537 on Aug. 28 to 406 on Friday while the average of daily deaths went from 41 to 20.


CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada health officials on Saturday reported 414 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths, increasing the statewide totals to 73,220 cases and 1,439 deaths.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press showed seven-day rolling averages for Nevada’s daily new cases and daily deaths dropping over the past two weeks.

The average of daily deaths went from 488 on Aug. 28 to 299 on Friday while the average of daily deaths dropped from 15 to 9.


EAST LANSING, Mich. – Health officials are strongly recommending Michigan State University students living on or near the school’s East Lansing campus self-quarantine because of an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Ingham County Health Department says at least a third of the 342 people affiliated with the university testing positive for the virus since Aug. 24 attended parties or social gatherings. At least one third of the gatherings were associated with fraternities or sororities.

The health department says in the three weeks before the surge, only 23 people affiliated with the university had tested positive.

The state has more than 110,800 confirmed cases and more than 6,500 deaths.


BLACKSBURG, Va. – The coronavirus pandemic disrupted college sports again Saturday, with Virginia and Virginia Tech postponing their Sept. 19 football opener because of issues at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech reported Friday it had 219 positive tests among students and staff for the coronavirus in the previous seven days, putting its total infections at 633 since testing began Aug. 3. The numbers have risen steadily since students returned Aug. 24.

The school hasn’t been releasing athlete-specific results.

Virginia Tech won’t hold football practice for four days. No makeup date was announced for the game set for Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Anchorage will receive federal support to aid in lessening the coronavirus outbreak in its homeless population.

There have been 168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Anchorage’s homeless shelters and one death. Anchorage Health Department Epidemiologist Janet Johnston says about 100 of those cases are associated with an outbreak at the Brother Francis Shelter.

The city was assigned three employees from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The four federal staffers will help with on-site epidemiology, contact tracing and other management of the city’s outbreak.


HONOLULU – The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has sent a team of health care staffers to help contain a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans’ home in Hawaii.

Officials says 10 residents have died at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports most of the veteran home’s 74 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus after an asymptomatic staffer is thought to have brought it on site.

Sen. Brian Schatz implored the VA this week to help after asserting the home was understaffed and not equipped to halt the outbreak.

The federal health care team includes an infectious disease doctor, a facilities engineer, an infectious disease nurse, a safety officer, an industrial hygienist and a nurse manager.

The team will investigate infection control issues at the home and recommend procedures to manage the outbreak.


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Coronavirus infections in the Dakotas are the fastest growing in the nation.

North Dakota and South Dakota have led the country in new cases per capita over the last two weeks, with 470.2 new cases per 100,000 people and 408.1 new cases, respectively. That’s according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

South Dakota is among the nation’s highest in positivity rates for coronavirus tests in the last week at 17%, according to the COVID Tracking Project. North Dakota’s stands at 5.8%.

Infections were likely spurred by schools and universities reopening and mass gatherings like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from across the country.

Health experts warn the infections must be contained before health care systems are overwhelmed. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem have resisted mask requirements.

The city council in Brookings, South Dakota, moved its meeting to a local arena to accommodate intense interest, with many citizens speaking against it. The mask requirement ultimately passed, one of the few in the state.

South Dakota has reported 16,117 confirmed cases and 183 deaths; North Dakota has reported 14,684 confirmed cases and 167 deaths. Combined, the states have 1.6 million people.


VATICAN CITY – The Vatican says its “necessary and urgent” to return to in-person Masses as soon as anti-coronavirus measures permit.

The head of the Vatican’s liturgy office, Cardinal Robert Sarah, says in a letter to bishops’ conferences Saturday that virtual liturgies, while useful, were no replacement for the real thing. He says physical presence by the faithful in churches was “vital, indispensable, irreplaceable.”

While some Catholic priests claimed coronavirus lockdowns that shuttered churches infringed on their religious liberty, Pope Francis adhered to Italy’s strict lockdown. He halted all public Masses at the Vatican and livestreamed his morning liturgies, and at one point even admonished priests who balked at the measures for their “adolescent resistance.”

Francis had urged the Catholic faithful to obey government coronavirus measures, saying they were responsible for public health. This week, he was seen wearing a face mask for the first time and has been using hand sanitizer.

In recent weeks, Francis has resumed public gatherings and celebrated a handful of public Masses before limited, socially distanced groups.


LONDON – Britain has recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day.

The Department for Health and Social Care show a daily increase of 3,497 new cases, slightly down from Friday’s figure of 3,539, which was the highest since May 17.

The daily cases reported are more than double those a week or two back, a change that has stoked concerns of a second wave of the virus in the country. The U.K. has recorded more than 41,600 virus-related deaths, Europe’s highest.

The British government says social gatherings in England will be limited to six people indoors and outdoors and rule-breakers will face fines starting Monday.


ROME – Italy added another 1,501 coronavirus cases to its official count.

The Health Ministry says another six people died in the past day, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,603.

Infections have been steadily increasing for the past six weeks, mostly among Italians returning from vacation. While many infected are asymptomatic, the number of people in the ICU went from 121 to 182 in the past week.

Public health officials indicated in their weekly report the health care system hasn’t been overwhelmed, but “the observed tendency might soon reflect greater strain.”


LONDON – Oxford University says trials of a coronavirus vaccine its developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will resume, days after pausing due to a reported side effect in a patient in Britain.

The university says in large trials “it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”

It says globally some 18,000 individuals have received study vaccines as part of the trial. It wouldn’t disclose the medical information about the illness for reasons of participant confidentiality but says it is “committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our studies and will continue to monitor safety closely.”

Health experts say pauses in drug trials are commonplace to ensure safety and effectiveness.


AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 3,488 new coronavirus cases Friday and 144 deaths.

That brought the total confirmed cases to 653,356 and nearly 14,000 confirmed deaths, state health official say. However, the true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Health officials estimated 71,292 cases are now active, with 3,475 requiring hospitalization. The number of hospitalizations has been decreasing since peaking in July at 10,893.


FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky reported nearly 950 new coronavirus cases on Friday, one of the largest daily totals statewide.

Gov. Andy Beshear reported nine more virus-related deaths, raising the state’s confirmed death toll 1,044. The 948 newly reported cases raised Kentucky’s total to more than 55,700.

The Democratic governor has urged people to wear masks in public, practice social distancing, limit gatherings to 10 or fewer, wash hands frequently and limit travel.

Kentucky Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a similar message Friday about people doing their part.

“Until this goes away, the single best thing all of us can do – and it’s not complicated – is to wear a mask, practice social distancing,” McConnell said. “Until we get a vaccine, that’s the only way we can continue to work.”

The state’s closely watched positivity rate — a seven-day rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for conronavirus — rose slightly to 4.7%.

The governor says the state has started the payment process to add $400 to the weekly unemployment checks for tens of thousands of people who lost work.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,145 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 32 confirmed deaths.

The new Friday cases came as 30 of 102 counties reached two or more benchmarks that indicate the coronavirus is spreading there.

The cases were from 56,661 tests, resulting in a seven-day statewide positivity rate of 3.9 percent. There have been 4.6 million tests conducted in Illinois.

The total number of known infections in Illinois is 257,788, and the statewide confirmed death toll is 8,273 since the start of the pandemic.


BERLIN — Officials in southern Germany say an American woman who lives locally and returned from vacation in Greece may have caused a spike of coronavirus infections and increased restrictions in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The local council says the 26-year-old, who wasn’t identified, had visited several local bars. Council spokesman Stephan Scharf told news agency dpa that she had symptoms and was told to quarantine herself pending the result when she went for a test but failed to do so.

The woman had recently returned from a vacation in Greece. Scharf corrected information given earlier Saturday that the woman was a tourist who had come from the U.S.

All restaurants in the Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen must close at 10 p.m. for the next week. Germany, with a population of 83 million, has more than 260,000 confirmed cases and 9,351 deaths.

(This story has been corrected to indicate the American woman lived locally in Germany and returned from vacation in Greece. She didn’t arrive recently from the U.S.)


Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.


Author: The Washington Times

Mining's biggest face-to-face goes virtual

Mining’s biggest face-to-face goes virtual

With PDAC 2021 announcing an all virtual show due to COVID-19 concerns, juniors and miners will have to learn to adapt.

The Kitco podcast discussed the impact of PDAC’s annual convention, the industry’s biggest yearly get-together, on going virtual. Oreninc CEO Stephen Stewart joined special correspondent Paul Harris; editor Neils Christensen; and mining audiences manager, Michael McCrae, to record a podcast on Friday.

“Well first and foremost, it’s a shame. I’m sad that the PDAC is not going to be in person, and while I see the value in Zoom calls…it’s just not the same. I think that’s such an important aspect of the PDAC is these face-to-face interactions with your colleagues and friends,” said Stewart.

“You know, the collision…that tends to occur at an event where you get 25 or 30 or 5,000 people in the same space from all over the world. There’s just no way you can recreate the magic that occurs at the PDAC.”

Restrictions on social interactions forced PDAC organizers to make the change.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect travel and major gatherings, we recognize that staying connected is more important than ever for members, exhibitors, sponsors, attendees and numerous partners. The decision to move forward with a virtual event offers a safe and innovative solution for the industry to access our outstanding programming, investment and networking opportunities,” wrote the PDAC in a news release.

The convention will be held March 7-10. Exact dates and scheduling are pending. Kitco News will be a media partner.

“PDAC is one of the top industry shows. For the past 12 years, Kitco News has enjoyed covering the event, connecting with newsmakers, exhibitors, attendees and sponsors. In support of the decision to go virtual, Kitco is a committed PDAC media partner will provide extensive virtual coverage of the event,” said Kitco’s media director, John Dourekas. “During these challenging times, we will take the opportunity to use technology and innovation to find new ways that allow people to connect online.”

The panel also discussed Rio Tinto resignations over the destruction of a culturally significant Indigenous site. In May a 46,000 year-old rock shelter was detonated by Rio Tinto to expand its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara. Paul Harris weighed in on the impact of the C$78 million bought deal investment by billionaire Eric Sprott in First Majestic Silver.



Cashless payments rise, financial surveillance grows

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