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Telegraph, 28 October 2015: "Paying anonymously increasingly difficult"

"Paying cash is a fundamental right." 

By the Telegraph this week, Privacy First chairman Bas Filippini was interviewed about the right to pay anonymously and the dangers of a cashless society. Below is the full newspaper article:

Paying used to be an anonymous act. Thanks to the convenience of debit cards, 'pin only' initiatives and the rise of shopping on the internet, citizens are increasingly leaving traces at checkout. But what actually happens to that data?

In the hunt for undeclared savers, the tax authorities managed to obtain all transaction data of Dutch citizens who paid with a payment card from a foreign bank. The payment details were stored for three years and could afterwards be linked to customer details of online shops or mail order companies that keep addresses and other information of their customers.

The ease with which the tax authorities could access all that data worries Bas Filippini of Privacy First. He does not have a good word to say about the method used by the tax authorities to track down undeclared savers.

"Will everyone soon have to look back at every payment you make?" Filippini fears that governments, in their zeal to track down tax evaders and criminals, are "putting the whole society in an electronic prison". That is why his foundation is working, among other things, to protect the fundamental right to pay anonymously. A right that is at stake on all sides, Filippini observes sadly.

Take the parking meters popping up in more and more municipalities that no longer accept coins. Even though that "is a legal means of payment". Filippini is preparing a lawsuit against municipalities that refuse coins. But his actions against the displacement of cash from regular payments are not yet receiving massive support in the Netherlands. Of the potential dangers, Filippini outlines, most compatriots do not lie awake.

How different is the sentiment in Germany, where many citizens still cling to paying with paper money. In the painful historical knowledge that personal data can end up in the wrong hands, privacy is a big deal with its eastern neighbours. There, it is not unusual to buy a car with a suitcase of banknotes. But when it comes to payments, the international trend is a different one. More and more leading economists are advocating a cashless society. And in Sweden, politicians are seriously considering a ban on paper money.

It is the criminalisation of cash that bothers Filippini. "There is a persistent misconception among tax authorities and the FIOD that they have to solve crime 100 per cent of the time. But that means 100 per cent control and then you no longer live in a rule of law."

Moreover, data can be manipulated and errors can creep into databases. "Who puts the checkmarks after your name? That's how we create a bureaucratic monster.""

Source: The Financial Telegraph, 28 October 2015, p. 23; click HERE for the article at the Telegraaf online. A shorter version appeared the same day in the Noordhollands Dagblad, Leidsch Dagblad, IJmuider Courant, Haarlems Dagblad and De Gooi- en Eemlander.