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The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword, So What's Mightier Than The Pin

Sep 13, 2008
With the proliferation of digital technologies, the UK is progressing into a 1984 styled future where every movement is monitored and history is continually rewritten. Fortunately, we are not quite there yet but the standardisation of chip and pin payment on the 14th of February 2006 was a step closer as it reduced everyone paying for goods and services, down to a four digit number. Quite the Valentines Day gift from our government. From then on throughout the United Kingdom, regarding payment technologies, we are no longer people with names but bank accounts with an identification number. However much we resent this Orwellian nightmare it is beyond our control so it is probably best to accept the changes and get on with it. Of course there are some good reasons for the implementation of this system.

In the past when paying at establishments such as retail shops and restaurants the customer would have to hand over his card to an assistant in order for the assistant to take it over to the cash machine and process the charge. Under the new Chip and Pin methods with wireless pin pads this no longer necessary as the mini terminal can be brought straight to the customer.

And that is pretty much it for the benefits. The system is supposed to eradicate credit card fraud because the electronic chips are a lot more difficult to clone than numbers on the receipt and someone's signature. However, whereas before when Chip and Pin was limited to an ATM machine, now customers must enter their Pin number in public places surrounded by a multitude of people. In addition, because each individual only has four digits as identification it is easy for anyone behind the person at the point of sale, to slyly lean over their shoulder and make note of the number, usually on the perpetrator's mobile phone as they feign typing a text message. They will then follow the victim and attempt to pick pocket their wallet.

It may not just be some hood rat peering over your shoulder as you pay for your lobster it could be our own untrusted government. As CCTV becomes ever more pervasive in our town and cities (you will be caught on camera over 300 times on an average day in London) and shop keepers focus theirs on their cash register they will subsequently record you entering your Pin number. Therefore there is wide felt concern on the security of these recordings.

Currently we are nearing the age of biometric information registration that is unique to the individual, such as voice recognition, fingerprints or eye scanning to detect iris patterns has the potential to be stored within the chip. Although this is a securer form of identification I can't help recalling the scene out of Demolition Man. I don't want that to be my eyeball.
About the Author
John McE writes articles on a number of subjects including payment terminals and chip and pin. For more about chip and pin see CardSave.
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