Techdirt Podcast Episode 77: The Link Between Credit And Surveillance

from the cash-and-data dept

Both surveillance and the digitization of money are heavily-discussed topics, but the intersection between the two often goes overlooked. Historically, credit agencies have been trailblazers in the world of surveillance, and today we face the fact that the government can use payment providers and other financial tools as a means of enforcing its wishes. On this week’s episode, we’re joined by lawyer and writer Sarah Jeong, who recently wrote a four-part series on the subject, to discuss the past and future of credit, money, surveillance and the way they work together.

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 77: The Link Between Credit And Surveillance”

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Anonymous Coward says:


Used to oppress the Citizens…

Just the way socialists have always wanted it!

and today we face the fact that the government can use payment providers and other financial tools as a means of enforcing its wishes.

Regulation in a Nutshell!

Sadly, far too many people will never get it, and continue to blindly support regulation without reservation.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Regulation...

Blindly opposing “regulation” – and even discussing “regulation” as one giant, general, homogenous topic – is equally foolish, and far far more common. I’ve never seen anyone claim “all regulation is good, regulate everything in every way” – but I’ve seen plenty of people rail indiscriminately against any and all forms of regulation as you do here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Regulation...

Well, technically are right, but reality reveals that no matter how technically correct you are, you can still be dead wrong.

Have you ever heard the saying… it does not matter what you say, but how you say it?

That really applies here.

Regulation is in fact an overly general term. And because of that, it is okay to say hate regulation because the majority of it will be bad. And if the majority of something is bad, lets just go ahead and call it bad.

Yes, there are some good regulations, but those can be specifically indicated by using the terms Anti-Monopoly and Anti-Trust.

In this fashion it is not unfair to call regulation in general BAD while saying you do agree with a small fraction of Regulation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Regulation...

Oh, and it is far more foolish to just agree to regulation without a strict definition of what is to be regulated. Right now… there is no strict definition and therefor we just get corruption… because after all, they are regulating!


Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Regulation...

The difference is I don’t take the presence of corruption in many regulatory bodies to mean that regulation itself is bad in principle. I think that there are many things that will always require regulation, and though I’d certainly like to see that regulation function better than it does in many ways currently, it seems clear to me that some sort of regulatory mechanism will always be necessary – as in, some form of democratic process whereby a populace can create and enforce rules about things that effect everyone.

The FCC may be corrupt, but I still can’t envision an efficient modern society that doesn’t have a means of, for example, allocating radio spectrum — nor can I envision a way that could happen equitably and with maximum benefit if it was controlled entirely by private entities. The FDA may be corrupt, but I still can’t envision a modern industrial food chain that effectively feeds hundreds of million people without some sort of public health control, or a modern health care system that doesn’t involve some sort of public monitoring of pharmaceuticals. I can’t envision a modern city that doesn’t require public regulation of things like traffic, sewage, and zoning — and more broadly I can’t envision modern humanity’s long-term survival on the planet without some form of environmental and resource regulation.

I have no problem with you saying you think the majority of regulation is bad — though “majority” doesn’t mean a whole lot here, as regulation is not just directly quantifiable on some simple scale, considering that tiny pieces of regulation can often have widespread effects and hundred-page-long regulations can often prove impotent and ineffective.

What I fail to follow, though, is the logic of the leap from there to assuming that “regulation” is a concept is thus inherently problematic. Speaking realistically, we have no examples of a wholly regulated or wholly unregulated society – every society everywhere has existed with both, and each has numerous examples of both good and bad things caused by both regulation and a lack of regulation, plus even more examples where the exact causation is debatable and involves a wide variety of unique or specific factors.

The only sensible conclusion I can see is to focus on creating smart, effective, efficient regulation applied where necessary, and minimizing the negative consequences of both bad regulation and lack-of-necessary-regulation where those exist.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Regulation...

It also seems important to note that much of the corruption in many of those agencies is exactly that: corruption caused by private sector interests steering regulators away from the public good. But to react by eliminating all regulation would simply hand more direct control to the private interests – the very people guilty of nurturing the corruption you complain about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Regulation...

Corruption AIDED and SUPPORTED but you.

You care more that someone is going to be regulated than how they are regulated.

In my logic, only ONE side gets to push the corruption, the businesses.

In your logic, BOTH sides get to push the corruption.

Tell me again, why I should now have to face TWO corrupt entities vs ONE corrupt entity?

Regulation FORCES government and business into bed with each other… it’s just a fact of life!

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Many of the things Sarah mentioned that credit agencies used to collect are irrelevant, but saying “they would have stuff about whether you drank or gambled,” that makes me think “well of course!” It’s well-known that there’s a strong correlation between a problem with an addiction, whether it be to a drug or to gambling, and problems with handling money, because you’ll frequently end up throwing away money to feed the addiction. So why not track this?

WRT “decentralized identity”, I think the thing that the co-host is missing out on is that centralized identity does more than simply associate a person with a unique identity; it performs the equally-important converse operation of associating an identity with a unique person. He mentioned Reddit; well, just as an example, I have 5 different Reddit accounts that I use for various different purposes, to more easily compartmentalize the different things I use Reddit for. That’s just fine for Reddit–it’s a positive feature on a service like that–but for something like personal identity, having a person being able to have multiple personal identities is a bug, not a feature.

Also, Sarah’s absolutely right about Bitcoin. The system has been plagued by fraud and dysfunction almost from day 1. At the moment, the cost in energy to run the computations necessary to mine 1 Bitcoin is greater than the value of 1 Bitcoin. The developers behind Bitcoin want to try to fix things, but they can’t because too much of the Bitcoin network’s processing power is run by a small handful of Chinese syndicates, and they don’t want the system to be fixed. (So much for a “decentralized” system!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You forgot about something else.

Being the gate keeper to the central archives also means you can accuse with impunity. Very easy to manufacture guilt and association.

If I told you that I drove by an elementary school about 4-6 times one day someone would call me a pedo. The fact that I live right next to the damn thing might change a few minds. See how just the omission of data can cause people to jump to a conclusion? And don’t say that is not a conclusion people will not jump too either… they have actually tried to make laws saying traveling past a school to often should get you arrested!

Jon Oliver did a bit on the Credit Agencies just talking about honest mistakes messing with people lives. Just wait until the government needs you dead! Hell, they can already do it.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If I told you that I drove by an elementary school about 4-6 times one day someone would call me a pedo.

I wouldn’t. I used to live about a mile from the local elementary school, and it was located on a main road in between my place and downtown. On a busy day if you’re running errands there’d be nothing at all weird or unreasonable about driving past it multiple times, and I’d hope people would be able to consider such possibilities before jumping to ridiculous conclusions.

Adrian Cochrane (profile) says:

Re: (Mason Wheeler)

Yet another point the co-host is missing (which I think I heard touched on) is that while distributed technologies like blockchains can keep things internally consistent, they do nothing to ensure accuracy of that data.

This is an inherent restriction of any sort of database, and credit companies (badly) approximate a solution by providing someone to blame for collecting bad data. So if the companies are driven to black-market peer-to-peer technologies* the companies would still exist to say (on an anonymous identity) “yes, I guarantee this data is correct”.

* Not that I have anything against peer-to-peer, done right (not like bitcoin) it’s what we need to avoid this censorship.

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