by Steven Tritton
Modern technology has created a brave new electronic and borderless
biometric capturing technologies have advanced significantly in
ID programs have modernized with the likes of ID
smartcards linked to huge databases enabling fast and secure
electronic authentication among other surveillance functions.
Advances in digital technologies have made it possible now to
construct an identification system capable of monitoring just about
every human transaction.
The surveillance society is no longer a
future probability but a very present reality.
As Martin Hirst, Associate Professor at Deakin University observes:
"…we are clearly living
in a well-established surveillance society." 1
This surveillance society
has at least several disturbing implications as Hirst proceeds to
Everything you do is subject to surveillance... We are under constant
watch, both physically and electronically. Surveillance is the new
It's everywhere and this ubiquity makes us take it for
That ubiquitous surveillance has achieved an almost imperceptible
presence in our lives is captured in remarks by Julian Assange in an
interview with Global:
The web accelerated the network's proliferation into every aspect of
modern daily life in advanced societies.
The speed of that
transformation has left global society unaware of the political and
societal implications of using a one-world network as the central
nervous system of humanity.
Foremost among those implications was
the globalisation and totalisation of surveillance. 3
Indeed it's a profound transformation unfolding as advanced
surveillance technologies become smaller, faster and far more
powerful and effective.
But more, it reveals an eerie dimension to
modern surveillance in that while it has become pervasive, it is
also now largely invisible.
Accordingly, the erosion of freedoms and
privacy, and the impacts on social inclusion and exclusion go almost
unquestioned. We've become preoccupied with the need for high-tech
solutions to everything, whether it's ensuring robust security and
safety or prevention of identity fraud and crime.
Few surveillance instruments are as effective for monitoring the
movements of individuals as smart ID cards, particularly when
empowered by modern technology and infrastructure.
General of Interpol and the EDAPS Consortium clearly know this when
in an intriguing announcement in 2011, called for development of an
electronic "Globally Verifiable Identity Card."
The card was
envisaged to be embedded with a contactless microchip and integrated
biometric technologies providing,
"automation of border and migration
control at all levels" and verifiable "through national and
international databases." 4
Taking the globally verifiable identification card to a new level is
this curious proposal by science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon, who
told BBC in 2012 that to change the world everyone should be issued
a unique ID barcode or implantable chip:
...I would insist on
every individual having a unique ID permanently attached - a
barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast
inexpensive way to identify individuals... 5
Moving forward to 2014, is this chorus of calls for ubiquitous
surveillance, global ID systems and universal human chip implants
merely the paranoid fantasies of spirited imaginations?
Renewed calls for the beefing up of the world's surveillance systems
appear to come on the heels of nearly every major breach of
security. Malaysia's missing airliner MH370 on 8 March 2014 is a
good case in point.
Given the frustration with the search for the
missing aircraft, China announced at the end of March a curious plan
"massively increasing its network of surveillance and
observation satellites so it can monitor the entire planet."
Audacious proposals for high-tech surveillance should give anyone
pause for concern. However, it seldom does...
As a UK public
discussion report notes, the surveillance society is widely,
the stuff of science fiction, not everyday life." 7
'Receive a Mark in Their Right Hand or in Their Foreheads…'
It may seem like the stuff of science fiction but a world in
transformation driven by the technology of the age also signals a
biblical prediction coming into view.
Referring to a mark embedded
at the right hand or forehead of every individual, we turn to
consider a fascinating verse from the New Testament that describes a
centralised world financial order.
Revelation 13:16-17 reads:
He causes all, both
small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a
mark in their right hand or in their foreheads, and that no one
may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the
beast, or the number of his name.
(King James Version)
These verses come from
the book of Revelation written in the latter part of the first
The author is traditionally known as John, the book's
original Greek title is 'Apocalypse' which means a prophetic
disclosure or 'Revelation' from where the latter title of the book
While the 'mark' has been a topic of debate for many years, its
concept remains to be seen.
Will the mark be a symbolic
representation or a functioning hardware device?
Will it be a
visible inscription or concealed subcutaneous implant?
Could it be a
hybrid of any of these?
Current technologies and techniques already
have potential to meet any one or more of these adaptations with
variations of scannable tattoos, implantable chips and a growing
range of innovative wearable devices.
Looking at the passage more broadly, scholars of eschatology
generally interpret the verses,
with view of a world dictator ("He")
who exercises global authority and control ("causes all to receive")
using a specialised instrument ("a mark") to enforce a draconian
compliance policy ("that no one may buy or sell except one who has
A crucially important detail in this passage is the mark embedded at
the right hand or forehead, suggesting an indispensable device in a
newly established opt-in economy in order to buy and sell, with
profound implications for surveillance and control.
one's consumer activities was until recent times a cumbersome
process, but with the explosion of a new generation of cashless
payment technologies, that has all radically changed.
Indeed, the shopper of today who prefers cashless methods of payment
already leaves a trail of digital records that can be tracked and
monitored with ease through their daily online and offline shopping
The reason for raising an alarm here is that we can
already demonstrate the technical capacity to engineer a completely
cashless and paperless economy, outfitted with a centralized global
digital currency and embeddable device to replace all existing
methods of payment.
There would be no means or avenue of escape from
this horrendous tightly controlled surveillance complex.
This seems to be the economic model that the passage is describing,
and the narrative this analysis will explore, as we look at a few
samples among many emerging innovations and developments to affirm
that this is the direction the world is heading.
It is also
important to consider what these technologies and innovations
portend with regard to their possible precursor to the mark, and how
they may be familiarizing users to be more receptive of an embedded
bodily device through exposure and usage.
Technology & Chip Implants
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips have been the object of
a great deal of sensationalist commentary over the years.
So what are RFID chips?
RFID chips are basically an automatic data
capture technology that contains unique identification codes that
are readable at varying distances with special reader devices.
tiny size of the chips, about that of a small grain of rice, and
their widening deployment over the years, has generated broad
publicised concerns about potential privacy invasion.
These fears are not unfounded.
It's already a mandatory requirement
in six states of Australia 8 and other parts of the world
that domestic animals be implanted with a microchip containing
identity data linked to a microchip registry.
What starts out
voluntary often becomes mandatory...
While deployment of human chip implants in the mainstream has not
materialised, it has in no way dampened the spectre of what could
As Time magazine opined back in 1998:
Your daughter can store the money any way she wants - on her laptop,
on a debit card, even (in the not too distant future) on a chip
implanted under her skin. 9
Similarly, CNET News 2003, where we read about
RFID technology for the PayPass credit card to be fitted with a
It could be in a pen or a pair of earrings. Ultimately, it could be
embedded in anything - someday, maybe even under the skin. 10
A more recent article on BBC sought to inform readers that,
same exact technology as the card in your wallet" to allay fears of
"surveillance and totalitarian control" toward microchip implants.
Unlike cards that can be lost or stolen, "you'll never lose the
chip," assured the advocate of the technology.
In remarks that read
like a glowing endorsement of microchip implant techniques:
An implanted chip, by contrast, could act as our universal identity
token for navigating the machine-regulated world.
Yet to work, such
a chip would need to be truly universal and account for potential
obsolescence... It marks the beginnings of a slow move toward a world
where everything will be accessed from a single RFID microchip.
that day comes, I can't think of a safer place to keep it than
inside my own body. 11
Promoting mainstream use of human chip implants through the health
care industry was a curious television commercial for VeriChip Corp
Featuring a sequence of patients holding forth a tiny
microchip, the ad wastes no time enticing audiences with these
To think something so
small can connect you to everything that matters. When your life
and all you love are on the line, Health Link is always with
When every second
counts in the emergency room, providing immediate access to your
medical records... 12
Cybernetics scientist Dr.
Mark Gasson of the University of Reading
in Britain foresees human chip implants becoming one of life's
necessities in the near future, according to citations in the Sydney
Morning Herald in April 2014:
It's not possible to interact in society today in any meaningful
way, without having a mobile phone.
I think human implants will go
along a similar route. It will be such a disadvantage not to have
the implant that it will essentially not be optional. 13
Are these remarks the creative plot for a sci-fi thriller or do they
foreshadow biblical mark realities?
By contrast, it was fears of RFID chip implants "becoming widespread
in humans" that prompt this warning in the same Sydney Morning
Herald article, citing Dr. Katina Michael, an associate professor at
the University of Wollongong:
They point to an uber-surveillance society that
is Big Brother on
the inside looking out.
Governments or large corporations would have
the ability to track people's actions and movements, categorise them
socio-economic, political, racial, religious or
...and ultimately even control them. 14
The spectre of human microchip implants looms.
Smart Chips & Contactless
Contactless payment processes have opened a new chapter in fast,
convenient and cost effective methods of payment. Many readers of
New Dawn would be familiar with the contactless payment services
available in many retail stores.
MasterCard® PayPass™ and Visa payWave are two established
contactless payment services on offer throughout Australia.
services provide contactless payment point-of-sale readers that
utilise sophisticated smart chip technology to enable users to make
payments with little more than a simple wave of a card.
or inserting the card at the terminal, nor a PIN or signature
required for purchases under $100.00.
Unlike the standard RFID chip, the smart chips in cards contain an
antenna loop embedded in the plastic. The far more sophisticated
modern chip and their variations still use radio frequency
technologies but incorporate a microprocessor and internal memory
for read/write and secure data storage and management.
smartcards exchange information with payment terminals using
short-range wireless communications and conform to the international
standard ISO/IEC 14443 that limits the ability to read and write to
the contactless device at a distance less than 10 centimeters.
The significance of these developments cannot be overstated
considering the rapid deployment of converging contactless payments
and chip card enabled payment innovations in recent years.
be said that there's little experiential difference between making a
contactless payment with a wave of a card and a contactless payment
with a wave of the right hand.
If exposure and repetitive use breeds
familiarity, then user sensitivities toward an embedded
device-enabled payment paradigm are certainly being numbed.
Quick Response (QR) Codes
Could scannable tattoos become what is the mark that enables those
who receive it to buy and sell?
QR codes are two-dimensional machine-readable graphics which consist
of a matrix of black modules arranged in a square on a white
QR Codes are similar to standard barcodes except QR
Codes can contain much more information than traditional barcodes.
QR Codes link the physical with the digital world. They are often
displayed on brochures, business cards, posters, clothing and other
When scanned by a smartphone or device, the QR
Code directs the user to a website, phone number or other
Incidentally, QR codes also enable payments by linking the user's
bank account or credit card information to their unique QR Code.
Depending on the app, users can either pay by scanning a QR code,
displayed on a bill for example, with their smartphone or merchants
can accept a mobile payment by scanning a customer's unique QR Code
on their smartphone. 15
While QR codes have been around since the 1990s, it's only with
recent technology we see their extraordinary versatility with
enabling a variety of mobile payment methods. 16
There's also been a
strange twist to this technology with claims of scannable QR Code
It may be a futuristic
and bizarre claim to make that one day such tattoos could enable
payments much like the passage describes the mark, but it just goes
to show the technology and technical capability is here.
Smartphones & Mobile Devices
Software applications and near field communications (NFC) among
other innovations are rapidly transforming payment processing
ecosystems, creating a new era of convenient and fast payment
services, with converting phones and other mobile devices into full
It's claimed the new digital wallet will soon eliminate any need to
carry cash and cards, allowing users to link their debit and credit
cards to conduct financial transactions all at the press of a few
buttons on a device. 18
Once the user has
established an account, users can 'tap' their phone to pay for
shopping at the checkout or pay a friend by transferring money from
mobile to mobile.
Enterprising Australian banks and financial service organisations
are pressing onward with trials and roll outs of their
infrastructure across the country. 19
Trials are even
being conducted on a payment microchip embedded in the sleeve of
suits at the cuff for easy and convenient payments. 20
There's also digital
payment bracelets, wristwatches and other wearable payment devices
now commercially available. 21
It seems the acceleration toward a cashless society is becoming like
one of an amusement arcade amid the range of novel payment devices
coming onto the market.
These innovative payment devices are yet
another novelty enticing customers toward fully traceable and
trackable digital transactions, indeed cultivating user familiarity
with a variety of
cashless and contactless methods of payment.
Biometric Enabled Payment Devices
Biometric payment innovations add yet another range of options for
the customer to pay, with biometric scanning devices enabling
methods of payment typically with finger, hand or face.
range of benefits are advanced including simplicity, speed,
convenience and security of payment.
PayTouch 22 and MyTouch
23 are two services
that allow users to link their payment cards to their fingerprint
for method of payment.
PayPal, a global payment company, has partnered with Samsung to
launch a biometric fingerprint authentication payment option enabled
by the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance ready software.
collaboration allows Samsung Galaxy S5 users to be able to login and
shop at any merchant that accepts PayPal on mobile with their
If there exist any payment technique that could be said to simulate
conducting payments with an embedded mark at the right hand or
forehead, that would surely belong to emerging hand and face
biometric methods of payment.
Biyo is touted as a revolutionary biometric digital wallet that
allows users to pay with their hand by scanning the unique vein
patterns in the palm to create a secure password.
system requires users to register their palm and link it to a credit
card of choice.
Once registered, the user can make payments simply
with their hand at any store where the Biyo terminal is available.
It's trumpeted as the world's first face recognition payment system
and comes from a Finnish start-up company called Uniqul.
developing real-time facial recognition payment technology to
replace cash, cards and phones and aspire to,
world of payments with new paradigms to create amazing payment
experiences for users." 26
There is little presence of biometric payments in Australia, however
in a recent move toward this initiative, digital banking tech
provider The Systems Work Group have taken on eye-print recognition
technology for authenticating mobile banking app users. 27
Accelerating Social &
Africa and India offer compelling evidence of the radical
transformative impacts of cashless technologies on societies and
The African experience is an amazing transformation, a continent
exhibiting by far the fastest growth in mobile money economics in
the world amid deep and broad social disadvantage.
enables users through payment schemes such as SnapScan and M-Pesa to
make a variety of financial transactions with just their phone, even
where conventional payment infrastructure is unavailable. 28
An extraordinary feature of Africa's mobile money implementation is
that they have leapfrogged over vital infrastructure otherwise
necessary for consumers to engage a modern economy:
The lack of financial and technology infrastructure could have been
perceived as a massive barrier, but instead Africa has managed to
leapfrog over a world of credit cards, ATMs, bank managers and
Evidently the absence or lack of infrastructure is accelerating the
transition to a viable cashless society in this instance.
A similar technological marvel is unfolding in India with the
ambitious rollout of a 12-digit unique ID number known as an Aadhaar
to all 1.2 billion residents across the country. 30
The Aadhaar number is stored in a centralised database and links to
the basic demographics and biometric information of each individual.
It is the largest biometric database in the world.
The mission is to
empower all residents of the country with a unique identity and a
digital platform to authenticate anytime and anywhere.
The program enables millions of rural and poor people through
financial inclusion to participate in the modern cashless economy.
Of important note here is the aim of the ID, as with
all sophisticated ID schemes around the world:
To create a detailed
digital record of everywhere the ID holder goes.
It's a fascinating spectacle of technological revolution and
accelerating social and economic transformation on a scale seldom if
Interestingly, when we compare the systems of the mark
and Aadhaar, we note a similar layout where both models utilise a
unique ID mechanism to enable access to the financial system of the
To restate in part:
He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave,
to receive a mark... and that no one may buy or sell except one who
has the mark.
En Route to
the Global System of the Mark
'Global citizenship' and mobility, international trade, global
financial markets and high speed technologies have connected
individuals and communities beyond our national borders.
Increasingly we're all part of a connected globalised economy in an
era of normalizing the digital way of life.
It would have taken some penetrating foresight in decades past to
have envisioned the role technology would play today with enabling
almost the entire world's population access to an advancing modern
economy, including the world's poor:
"He causes all... rich and poor... to receive a mark…"
Yet, here we witness today this incredible
transformation unfolding in places such as Africa and India and
In an interesting note, the Center for Financial Inclusion, citing a
convergence of financial inclusion elements including convenient
payment systems and the mobile money revolution, envisions global
financial inclusion now within reach. 32
technologies are seen contributing to this "profound demographic
Indeed, it's these cashless technologies that signal an approaching
mark-based enabled buy and sell system with each passing day. It
wasn't many years ago that a global cashless society was even
technologically feasible, but we now have the computing capacity and
power to make it all happen, and very quickly if need be.
When we look carefully at what the passage is saying, we can
actually see described in this ancient text today's landscape of
cashless and embeddable technologies, which is the system of the
mark in its embryonic stage development.
As such, the pace at
which the world is approaching this prophecy may well be synced to
the quickening technological progress taking place around us.
the Global Surveillance Society
cashless society adds a vast new dimension to the surveillance
Further to being tracked using conventional surveillance
techniques, any user of the Internet, credit card or mobile device
can now be monitored by their computer and consumer activities.
As was earlier outlined, the surveillance society had already
arrived with little public awareness of, and appreciation for, its
pervasive presence in our lives. A similar phenomenon is confronting
us today with the cashless society and fewer still are alert to its
We now embrace surveillance like a dangerous liaison with our
preoccupation for everything digital and mobile.
As journalist and
author Pratap Chatterjee observes:
Today, the surveillance state is so deeply enmeshed in our data
devices that we don't even scream back because technology companies
have convinced us that we need to be connected to them to be happy.
Exclusive use of cash in the new surveillance economy provides some
level of anonymity but even these efforts will be futile when the
day arrives that cash is made obsolete.
What could it take to galvanize governments into establishing a
purely closed digital economy incorporating a device embedded in
every individual to buy and sell?
ID cards, payment cards and mobile devices can be lost, stolen and
Accordingly, precursor technologies would converge to create
the mark, reconstructed as a hybrid of a unique ID and digital
wallet device, embedded in the right hand or forehead for a fully
integrated security solution.
How about a crisis of such consequence that threatens world security
and social order?
With looming global threats and ongoing
instabilities, countries teetering on catastrophic
collapse amid increasing terrorist activity and conflicts abroad,
the shifting sands of the current fragile world order would seem to
be signaling its systemic breakdown.
Perhaps in the midst of such turmoil or following a worldwide
economic meltdown, comes a momentous shift to a cashless society
with an embedded device compulsory for every individual to
participate in the new global financial order.
However, the newly
hatched revolutionary system will be one that ensnares humanity in a
totalitarian global surveillance society unlike the modern world has
ever seen given such advanced technology in place.
We have already
crossed the Rubicon...
'Someone's looking at you: welcome to the surveillance
economy', 26 July 2013, at
mass surveillance should be discontinued immediately',
Global: the international briefing, 2014, at
'Global Identity Verification and Migration Mobility
Control', MRTDs, Biometrics and Security Standards
(2011) Montreal ICAO, 12 September 2011 at
and 'Interpol chief calls for global electronic identity
card system', 6 April 2011 at
everyone at birth', BBC Future, 22 May 2012 at
Chen, 'China mulls global satellite surveillance after
flight 370 riddle', 30 March 2014 at
& K. Ball, et al (Eds) 'A Report on the Surveillance
Society', September 2006 at
microchipping mandatory for cats and dogs?' at
'The Big Bank Theory', TIME, 27 April 1998 at
and for full published version see
McCullagh, 'Chip implant gets cash under your skin',
CNET news, 25 November 2003 at
'Why I want a microchip implant', BBC Future, 10
February 2014 at
Gillespie, 'Human microchipping: I've got you under my
skin', Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2014 at
in payment: QR code and NFC payment', Payworks, 30
September 2013 at
and 'QR Codes for Marketing: A Unique Way to Bridge Offline
and Online Media', Human Service Solutions, at
and 'QR Code' at
hipster gets animated tattoo using a QR code', Relaxnews,
11 August 2011 at
'Digital Wallets - 10 Mobile Payment Systems To Take You
There', Hongkiat at
'Mobile payments in Australia: state of the banks',
Computerworld, 29 January 2014 at
'The world's first payWave suit', The Age, 23 April
McQuarrie, 'From Digital Payment Jewelry to Credit Card
Timepieces', 14 August 2013 at
'PayPal and Samsung launch FIDO authentication and
fingerprint payments for Samsung Galaxy S5', Biometric
Update, 25 February 2014 at
To Protect Mobile Banking Transactions', Find Biometrics,
28 April 2014 at
T. Kermeliotis, 'No cash, no cards: Mobile app lets you pay
with just your smartphone', CNN Marketplace Africa,
20 February 2014 at
'Mobile money: The African lesson we can learn',
Financial Review, 14 February 2014 at
see 'From Exclusion to Inclusion with Micropayments', UIDAI
Planning Commission, April 2010 at
and 'Aadhaar: Financial Inclusion through online
authentication', Aaadaarh UIDAI at
the Moment: On the Road to Financial Inclusion' by the
Center for Financial Inclusion, October 2013 at
'Cashless Technology One Piece of the Financial Inclusion
Puzzle', MasterCard, 4 February 2013 at
Chatterjee, 'Mining your information for big brother',
Asia Times Online, 15 October 2013 at