Thursday, 11 June 2015

You've been Mango'd!

I am a regular passenger on Trent Barton buses and a few years ago I wrote an article about their Mango system; this is a method of electronic payment that acts as an alternative to giving the driver cash. As an incentive it comes with a discount in the fare. It also has serious civil liberty and privacy issues connected to it, see: It's similar to the Oyster system in London, see background articles below. I realized that I could use the system and take advantage of the lower fares, and still protect myself, by buying one from their office with cash and only topping it up with cash at that same office. However, in the first article I made a prediction; I said that a time would come when either cash purchases and top-ups would be banned and/or you would need to register your identity along with your purchase. This has come true. The other day when I entered the office, the woman behind the counter tutted. "Oh dear, this is a 'ghost card'. I can't top this up until you've registered it."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"From May the 3rd all Mango cards have to be registered under the owner's name and address."
I objected and tried to explain my concerns about Big Brother, but she didn't really understand and tried to reassure me: "It's alright, sir. This is simply for your protection. Mango cards can easily get lost and so if that happens we can just issue you with a new card and you don't lose any credit you have on it." The librarian who tried to justify the attempt to fingerprint my daughter at school gave me similar platitudes, see background links below. She then directed me over to a computer console for me to register my card in their office. I asked if I could register from home online and she said "Sure." The reason why I wanted to register the card at home online was because it suddenly occurred to me that I could maintain my privacy by registering myself under a false identity and still topping up by cash in their office. I have done so; I've created an account with an imaginary name, address and other personal details. I'm not sure how long this ruse will work. Obviously only for as long as they maintain cash top-ups. My next prediction is of course that this practice will also be banned and you'll have to use your bank account or direct debit only. There will probably be a "contactless" system introduced at some point, see background links below. Already it is very inconvenient to top up your Mango with cash; you can only do it when the central office is open at the Nottingham bus station and there's always a long queue to wait in. It's only a matter of time before Big Bus Driver is watching me. I value my privacy and the freedom to travel anonymously and will defend them for as long as I can, but I can't help feeling like I'm climbing up the mast on a sinking ship.


Xylomet said...

Dear Ben, Apologies for not replying to your posts recently, have been a bit tied up at the moment (not as in a leather, metal chains and snooker ball in the mouth way I must add :).

You raise the key point which is that those in power use such everyday and seemingly inconsequential matters ti instigate this increasingly snoop-ish and invasive privacy breakdown, viz-a-viz Travel etc. The same happen with privitization, in the now illusory entity known as the NHS - for example - Cleaners and Porters are the first groups being outsourced to private interests because nobody really cares about these people, infact it makes them feel 'Superior' that these perceived 'lower' groups are now 'other-than-us'.

What they don't realize (but they will soon) is that this will trickle upwards and is already happening, and thus the same when we do not question even the smallest of liberties and privacy. This is what frustrates me when people say things like 'oh, it's only a Bus Card', well, if that's the case then why are such small things forced upon us with no choice?.

Thanks for the post Ben

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

You're welcome, X. Thanks for the comment. Sorry, I've not had time to write much this past week.
It's sad that so many people don't care about this and don't understand how they are sleepwalking into a surveillance state