Privacy Aspects of the Cashless and Checkless Society

Testimony Before the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure

by Paul Armer

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A discussion of the problem of maintaining privacy in an age of computerized credit transactions, and a proposal that some government agency be charged with the responsibility for protecting citizens' privacy. Cost and convenience will ultimately force us to use some form of interconnected electronic payment and bookkeeping network for most transactions, instead of checks and currency. The danger of personal surveillance — electronic snooping — depends largely on the completeness and centralization of records and the speed of transmission. Airline reservation systems (which can include hotels, car rentals, etc.) are a present example of large amounts of current personal information instantly available. There is little sanctuary for economic privacy in a system where any sizable cash transaction is conspicuous. Access to the files must be limited to a few persons who can be trusted.

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