Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Surveillance State - Using Technology to Track Your Grocery Purchases

Food has become one of the main stories in both the dinosaur and independent media sources with regular reporting on increasing food prices and decreasing supplies of some key food items.  One issue that has not been covered is how governments could well use technology to track our food purchases.  In this posting, we'll look at one governments latest efforts at unprecedented food surveillance.


This announcement recently appeared on the Norwegian government's Statistics Norway portal:



Here is the introduction:


"The assessment describes the need for collection and use of payment transactions via BankAxept from Nets Branch Norway (hereinafter Nets). Data will be used in established official statistics and for the development of new official statistics within the framework of the National Statistics Program 2021-2023.


The benefit is related to the fact that BankAxept transactions from Nets can be utilized as a new source in various official statistics that Statistics Norway produces and thus contribute to improving quality and timeliness in the production of statistics. Utilization of BankAxept transactions as a source of more statistics can at the same time help to reduce the workload for those required to do so because data collection becomes more efficient and coordinated. In addition, this will help to reduce Statistics Norway's use of resources related to data collection and processing of data.


The costs of collecting payment transactions from Nets are largely related to privacy consequences because some statistical purposes require that transaction data be compared with other personally identifiable information. Statistics Norway will therefore consider how data collection can be minimized, both in the short and long term, as well as implement justifiable privacy protection measures - and data security measures."


Norway's Department of Personal and Social Statistics is requiring BankAxept, the Norwegian national payments system which is used in 80 percent of payments to stores, to provide Statistics Norway with all of its customers' transactions with the goal of "contributing to improving quality and timeliness in the production of statistics".  BankAxept was launched in the early 1990s and is owned by Norwegian banks.  It can be used for both physical and digital transactions with payment approval in real time through the use of a mobile telephone, chip and PIN and contactless technology.  The amount of the purchase is immediately debited from the cardholder's account if sufficient funds are available. 


In the announcement, the Norwegian government is requesting data containing information on all payment transactions up to and including January 1, 2022 for the entire 2021 calendar year.  The data provided by BankAxept must include the following:


1.) Transaction date.

2.) Transaction type status.

3.) Card service.

4.) Organization number of the company where the card was used.

5.) Name of the company where the card was used.

6.) Name of card user, bank account number.

7.) Amount paid for items.

8.) Total amount paid.

Here is the raison d'ĂȘtre for the program:


1.) to produce official statistics according to the statistics program, more specifically statistics on consumption in Norwegian households.

2.) new official diet statistics - Statistics Norway is now developing the statistics on behalf of the Norwegian Directorate of Health. The development work is anchored in the letter of intent for a healthier diet , an agreement between the health authorities and the food industry (business organizations, food and beverage producers, the grocery trade and the catering industry)

3.) to study the use of transaction data for the production of other official statistics that use data on turnover and price development of goods and services in the production of statistics. This includes: retail trade and business services, transport and tourism, enterprises and accounting and the use of private health services.

Further, the Norwegian government claims that the main goals of the strategy is...


"... to collect, use and share the data for the benefit of society."


The Norwegian government states that, until 2012, data on household consumption was collected through sample surveys which led to sampling bias and underreporting which created data quality issues.  This was particularly the case for groceries where the volume of goods sold was very high, leading to a high risk of underreporting.  With this new mandate, Statistics Norway will link each of it citizens' payment transactions to grocery store receipts, allowing them to develop more accurate consumption statistics that are more relevant than those that can be achieved through sample surveys.  Specific grocery item purchases will now be directly linked to persons/households; this will allow the government to analyze socio-economic and regional differences in consumption and link it to income, education, health information and place of residence.


Here is another quote:


"Statistics Norway will be able to develop new and highly sought-after statistics on developments in the Norwegian diet. The statistics will have a much higher quality and degree of detail than before as a result of the access to transaction data from Nets, combined with e.g. receipt data from the grocery chains, data on nutrient content in the food and household information from Statistics Norway's administrative register. This applies, for example, to statistics that present how the diet of the Norwegian population varies with socio-economic background factors such as income, education and labor market affiliation, and how it varies with demographic and geographical dimensions. It is important to bring out regional, demographic and social differences in diet since this is a key dimension when the population's living habits are to be measured and quantified.


In sum, the statistics will contribute to a far better knowledge base on developments in the Norwegian diet with higher quality and level of detail than before. This is also in line with how it is expressed in the health authorities' action plans and in a letter of intent on a healthier diet entered into between the health authorities and the food industry.


The statistics must cover transactions throughout the calendar year. The statistics can be published with high relevance, but the starting point is to establish an annual statistic that can gradually be further developed both in terms of publishing content and frequency in close collaboration with the data sources and other partners."


Of course, the Norwegian government assures its citizens that the government has strict requirements for information security and any statistic that it releases will be confidential.  Here is a further quote;


"In order to address the privacy challenges ..., pseudonymisation of data will be an important measure. Among other things, connections at the personal level will be made with pseudonymous data. In addition, aggregation of data for the individual user location and payee, before further use in, for example, business cycle statistics for the business sector, will be relevant measures for data minimization."


To summarize, the Norwegian government has granted itself the right to know exactly what food items enter Norwegians' homes, all in the name of more accurate food consumption statistics.  Of course, this most personal data will remain private...at least until there is a security breach of the system.  While surficially, this appears to be a relatively benign government surveillance program, in fact, it could easily be used for nefarious purposes.  What if governments decide that certain individuals are prohibited from purchasing certain food items or that consumers can only buy a limited amount of certain foods, another form of rationing?  Given that a key part of the Great Reset is a reduction in the amount of meat consumed all in the name of saving Planet Earth from climate change, it really isn't much of a stretch to think that meat could be one of the items that is rationed or forbidden for the organ donor class.  It's also a great way to force consumers to eat foods like weeds, insects and manufactured "meat" as alternative sources of protein given that there is likely to be consumer reluctance to eat these "food items".


A question - do you really think that it is any of the government's business what you and your household eat? If there is anything that the past two years have taught us its that today's conspiracy theory is tomorrow's reality.  While Norway is currently on the leading edge of this invasive use of payment technology, you can assure yourself that other governments will follow their lead since all governments seem to be following each other's lead into the establishment of a surveillance state.


  1. "in Norway, and eight out of ten card payments in shops use a BankAxept card. "

    As with a gun, 'statistics' can be used badly, as in whose hands those statistics are in, and the holder's intent.
    As was obvious AND visible, 'statistics' were - and still are - being misused throughout the SARS-CoV-2 brouhaha.

    Statistics perform best when applied to non-sentient inorganic entities, where the parameters are very rigid and results have extremely high repeatability.

    Would they - in the 'interests' of Public Health - also do some parallel research on the unavoidable advertisements that the eyeballs and ears of those who generated this electronically collected data [ = customer's purchases], were subjected to prior to these purchases ?

  2. Your last comment reminds me of Minority Report when tailored advertising bombarded individuals as they entered shopping areas.

    Statistics in the post-science era can certainly be classified as "garbage in, garbage out".