Yesterday morning, for no adequately explored reason (OK, so maybe it had something to do with the trailers before the movie the night before), I was pondering detective fiction of the none-too-distant future, and the difficulty of making it interesting, when everyone's movements are tracked in minute detail.
And, in the interest of preventing interesting detective yarns, I postulate a convergence of various trends:
- Smartphone featurism: fine-grained location tracking that can't be turned off, NFC payment / "wallet" features, nominally-secure storage, etc.
- Secure-boot systems, as seen in the next crop of PCs.
- The decline of, and drive to eliminate, cash: it seems that anyone who isn't a terrorist, drug dealer, tax evader (small farmer, craftsman, or similar), or an old stick-in-the-mud like me, now uses plastic money for everything.
- Ubiquitous security cameras.
- Total dependence on centralized infrastructure.
And here's my projection for the proverbial 20 minutes into the future:
Smartphones, like Vermin Supreme's ponies, are free! Oh, and mandatory, and must be carried at all times. Basic voice and data service is a right (or what those nasty right-wingers would call an "entitlement"). All smartphones have Apple-style sealed construction and cannot be turned off without breaking the tamper-evident seal and possibly some important working components (or, y'know, just forgetting to charge the battery).
Your smartphone is your credit/debit card and your official ID document, and all your credentials (driver's license, passport, manicurist's license, criminal record) are stored on it (as well as on central servers).
Smartphone touchscreens have gained high enough sensing resolution to distinguish fingerprints, so the touch of the authorized user can be authenticated (modulo fake-fingerprint overlays, which are officially impossible). Also, the front-facing camera can be used to authenticate the user's face (and spoofing this is inconceivable).
Your smartphone can be used as a payment terminal, so person-to-person money transfers are possible even following the abolition of cash and the successive bans on possession of small valuable items (gold coins, silver coins, loose diamonds, small copper ingots, limited-run bubble-gum cards, and such). All transactions are of course tracked and subject to sales taxes, income taxes, and financial-transaction taxes. Transactions are only possible where mobile data coverage is available.
Security cameras record the faces and smartphone IDs of passersby in nearly all big-city public spaces, and at all important doorways.
The signing keys for unified-platform smartphone firmware were leaked almost immediately, so bootleg firmware for a variety of criminal purposes (identity spoofing, turning off tracking, temporarily ensuring privacy) is available, but all mention of this is ruthlessly censored.
So... can anyone tell me where I'm wrong?
Inability to process transactions while the lights are out is a Feature, not a bug, as it prevents price gouging during disasters.
Off-the-grid currency might take the form of IOUs, i.e., privately-issued paper money. A note saying "IOU a big favor" and bearing the signature and seal of the head of a major Sicilian or Byelarussian* crime syndicate would, for example, be a valuable trade item.
* The spelling checker doesn't like this, but all the approved spellings seem to be even worse, so pffffthbt!