Norway tracks citizens’ purchases and Biden wants to do it too
A report published in late May by NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, notes that Norway’s official statistics office will soon track most grocery purchases made in the Scandinavian country, a development that should serve as a warning to Americans about the growing trend of Western nations to expand surveillance and tracking of ordinary citizens.
In an article titled “Statistics Norway demands to know exactly what Norwegians buy at the grocery store”, journalist Martin Gundersen wrote that Statistics Norway “ordered grocery chains NorgesGruppen, Coop, Bunnpris and Rema 1000 to share all of their receipt data with the statistical agency.” Gundersen further reports that Nets, a payment service provider that processes around 80% of all in-store payments, “has also been required to share detailed information about all transactions.”
Statistics Norway“Statistics Norway and the main producer of official statistics” for the country’s government, said saidunder its new mandate, the agency will collect all customer transaction dates, card service information, user location number, user location name, account numbers and other relevant information related to each grocery transaction.
According to Gundersen, “a link between a payment transaction made with a debit card and a grocery receipt allows Statistics Norway to link a payment transaction and a receipt for more than 70% of grocery purchases, the statistics agency writes in a cost-benefit assessment.”
Under the new policy, around 1.6 billion transactions will be stored each year, according to Statistics Norway, which also said this was the case. not plan to delete the data in the future. Statistics Norway says the rationale for collecting massive amounts of data is so that the government can better improve its social welfare programs and properly adjust tax policies, among other goals.
The plan for the data is not just to look at behaviors broadly, but to look at the actions of specific groups.
“When purchases are linked to the person/household, it will be possible in consumption statistics and diet statistics to analyze socio-economic and regional differences in consumption, and relate them to variables such as income , education and place of residence”, Statistics Norway wrote in its cost-benefit analysis analysis.
When asked about the new policy’s intrusion into privacy, Ann-Kristin Brændvang, Director of Personal and Social Statistics at Statistics Norway, replied: “There is no other way to do it and the overall use of Statistics Norway indicates that the benefit to society is greater than the disadvantage.
Americans might be tempted to view this truly disturbing overshoot in Norway as something that could never happen in the United States, but the truth is that the Biden administration is currently considering the creation of a central bank digital currency that would give to the Federal Reserve and federal government the ability to track virtually all transactions made with the new asset, not just purchases at a grocery store.
In a Executive Decree released in March 2022, the White House has asked several federal agencies to study the creation of a programmable central bank digital currency. Within 180 days of the order, which falls in mid-September, a report will be released indicating whether a central bank digital currency should be created in the United States. While it may seem like the Biden administration is unsure what it will do regarding a central bank digital currency, all signs point to Biden getting ready to create a new digital dollar.
According to the same executive order directing federal agencies to “study” a digital currency and write a detailed report – which, remember, is supposed to happen within six months of the order’s release – a comprehensive legislative proposal, with input from the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury, must be turned over to the President for the establishment of a new digital dollar.
The digital currency envisioned by the Biden administration would not be an expansion or enhancement of the current physical dollar, nor would it be comparable to decentralized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It would be an all-digital, unprinted, programmable currency, meaning its usage could be tracked in detail, so the government or banking entity in charge knows exactly where every digital dollar is spent and by who.
For example, if fully implemented, a traceable digital currency would allow the government and the Federal Reserve to have an active database of every gun and ammunition purchase made in the United States using the digital currency. Government agents would further have the ability to know about every subscription you have, including to various news outlets, charities and political candidates you have donated money to, the carbon footprint of your travel activities past, the health of your diet and what you have in your pantry, among many other things. In many ways, citizens using this new digital currency would effectively have no privacy from the government.
It could also pose many other freedom-related issues, the most obvious of which is this: Would the government or the Federal Reserve tie punishments or rewards to buying behavior? Would they place limits on what could or could not be purchased using digital currency?
Of course, it is theoretically possible to design a digital currency that is neither programmable nor traceable, but the Biden administration has already acknowledged that its plan for a digital dollar, assuming it formally proposes one, would ensure that the new currency is designed for “financial inclusion and equity” and to address “climate change and pollution”, all of which would require programmability.
The White House also pledged to “continue to partner with all stakeholders – including industry, labor, consumer and environmental groups, international allies and partners” in the development of the new currency, a another sign that the currency would be programmable. (There would be little reason to consult with lobbyists, environmentalists and other “stakeholders” if Biden planned the development of a truly neutral, untraceable digital currency.)
The White House has also said its digital asset policies must prioritize eliminating the use of digital assets by criminal organizations, another goal that could never be achieved unless the intended digital currency is traceable.
The US government is not alone in considering the development of a central bank programmable digital asset. Like Kevin Stocklin Noted for the American curator in a report in May, “Nine countries have established CBDCs so far, and 15 others, including China, Russia and Sweden, currently have pilot programs in place. A total of 87 countries that collectively account for 90% of global GDP are at some stage of CBDC development. The European Central Bank (ECB) is also moving forward with the implementation of its own CBDC, the digital euro, and Deutsche Bank predicted that central banks collectively representing one-fifth of the world’s population will issue CBDCs by 2025.”
The increased use of technology by Western governments, including the United States, to track the behavior of legitimate citizens is expected to deeply disturb Americans of all political and ideological persuasions. How long will freedom in the West last if nearly every decision and every purchase made by citizens is monitored by those in power?
The United States should adopt important technological innovations, of course, but not at the expense of individual freedom. Now, more than ever, it is vital for Americans to send this message loud and clear to those in power in the White House and the Federal Reserve.