The Wall Street Journal reports on privacy questions concerning the use of a “smart,” stored-value card in China:
Over the past 12 years, Hong Kong’s ubiquitous “Octopus card” has brought cashless payment to every facet of this city’s life, allowing people to ride subways, pay phone bills and buy groceries with the wave of a small plastic card.
Now, Octopus Holdings Ltd. is spreading its tentacles around the world and into its most promising market: mainland China, where the card’s functions are being repurposed to handle everything from all-in-one bill payments to birth registration and social security. But as the amount of data stored on the card expands, concerns about privacy are growing.
The Octopus card is effectively a stored-value account. Customers deposit cash in the card, and then deduct from it for purchases by tapping the card against pads at subway turnstiles, vending machines and cashier counters. […]
In addition to their wide range of commercial and transit applications, Octopus cards now double as credit cards and debit cards. Others are used as staff and membership cards that can track attendance and group benefits. […]
Now Octopus, a private company owned by a consortium of Hong Kong’s public-transport operators, wants to explore the potential for deals closer to home, in mainland China. […]
Several Chinese municipalities are already drafting plans for all-in-one citizen cards that use the same RFID technology as Octopus. One Chinese city, Nanjing, wants to create a card that would reach into every pocket of daily life, serving as official identification as well as managing such things as pension payments, worker injury compensation and childbirth insurance, and payments for public transportation, culture, education and sanitation.