As much as we don’t want a cashless, digital society, biometric retail payments and other forms of Digital ID are not going away. As our global society quickly advances towards transhumanismlargely due to COVID, which convinced people to accept biometric surveillance—utilizing biometrics refers to automated recognition of individuals based on traits such as hand measurements, voice and face patterns, fingerprints, retina and iris scans. In other words, artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to recognize or verify a user’s claimed identity. What could go wrong?

An individual’s unique biometric data is the most precious data of all. As methods to collect biometric data become more sophisticated and more frequently used, Bloomberg recently reported that laws like the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) are being introduced and considered to prevent private entities from collecting biometric information without disclosure and consent. Likewise, there has been an increase in biometric privacy class action lawsuits and arbitration, highlighting the need for protective measures.

Indeed, protection against misuse of biometric data is crucial. If it is hacked, leaked, or compromised in some other way, the damage is most often permanent. As noted by journalist Nick Corbishley, unlike changing a password or replacing a debit or credit card, for example, you cannot change or cancel your iris, fingerprint, or DNA. Illinois’ BIPA law notes that once biometric identifiers are compromised, “the individual has no recourse, is at a heightened risk for identity theft, and is likely to withdraw from biometric-facilitated transactions.”

What will happen when the future arrives and cash is a thing of the past? How will people purchase food, clothing, and other necessities if their biometrics are hacked and there is no alternative method of conducting business? These questions, among many others, underscore the potential dangers of transitioning to a future of biometric-enabled surveillance and control.

Yet, despite an extensive collection of humanity against this dystopian march to merge man with machine, by all indications, the nightmare is full speed ahead. On June 6, 2024,

 Mastercard announced it is rolling out its biometric retail payments system for the first time in Europe. The company will pilot its Biometric Checkout Program in Poland in collaboration with local fintech company PayEye, which will provide its iris and face biometric technology. Thanks to the cooperation with PayEye, and technology partner Planet Pay, customers can test paying for purchases using their glance in five Empik stores across Poland. The arrangement is the first Biometric Checkout Program pilot in Europe, with PayEye already accepted in a few markets in the United States. Marta Życińska, MasterCard’s general manager for Poland, remarked:

“Mastercard is a pioneer of innovative payment methods and drives security and standardization, and Poland is a perfect place for such a groundbreaking pilot.

Poland was one of the first countries where contactless payments with Mastercard cards were introduced, and we know that Polish consumers are leaders in adopting innovative technologies. The pilot we are initiating today with Empik and PayEye is also a testament to Mastercard’s commitment to developing local technologies and supporting the Polish electronic payments market. We’ve long believed that biometrics can deliver best-in-class experiences, balancing convenience and security, and we look forward to scaling our program here in Poland.”

Confirming biometric-controlled dealings will take an even stronger hold across America in no time, in March 2023, J.P. Morgan announced it is targeting early 2025 to broadly launch a biometric checkout service with its merchants. The move was the first pilot solution launched from J.P. Morgan Payments’ new Commerce Solutions suite of products, dedicated to “helping merchants adapt to the rapidly evolving payments landscape.” Pleased with the results of its pilot, the big bank’s payment unit has now piloted the service, partnered with software firm PopID, with food giant Aramark in Texas, and plans to engage more merchants throughout 2024.

With the rapid pace at which the dollar is collapsing and artificial intelligence is taking hold, we can bank on the fact the U.S. government is not far behind in pushing both digital ID and biometric tracking. And even digital currency, but that is for another article. This month, the U.S. State Department announced that eligible citizens can once again renew their passports online. In an article titled “State Department Tests Online Passport Renewals as Digital IDs Gain Ground,” PYMNTS reported at least 20 U.S. states are adopting mobile driver’s licenses for their residents. Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Maryland also support mobile IDs on the iPhone’s Apple Wallet. Meanwhile, Utah, California, and Iowa have each issued unique state-sponsored mobile IDs that run on native platforms (rather than third-party digital wallets). According to PYMNTS, “intelligence data confirms U.S. consumers support efforts such as these.” Do we? I am not so sure.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, both the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security are exploring the use of AI and biometrics to enhance their identification confirmation requirements. Additionally, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently introduced an app encouraging eligible travelers to submit their photo, travel documents, and customs declaration information directly through their mobile devices to streamline entry into the U.S. One senator from Oregon, who clearly has his finger on the pulse of why the expanded use of Digital ID through biometrics is so incredibly dangerous, said in a recent statement:

“As I worked with other Senate negotiators to develop a compromise proposal governing TSA’s use of facial recognition, it became abundantly clear that the end goal for TSA is to make facial recognition mandatory for all American air travelers and that the current opt-out system will end.

Facial surveillance creates the foundation for a national surveillance state, and everyone who values privacy, freedom, and our civil rights should be concerned about the increasing, unchecked use of facial recognition technology by the federal government.”