“Know-your-customer” meets the trafficking panic

According to a British think tank report, one unnamed British bank has been “monitoring” its customers’ accounts for possible indications of involvement in prostitution, among them “payments to ‘high end restaurants and cheap diners on the same day’ in the belief that such transactions could indicate a sex worker dining with a client while her ‘handler’ eats more frugally nearby.” Another bank cooperating with authorities is looking for daily payments to drugstores “that might indicate repeated purchases of contraceptives.” [Martin Bentham/Evening Standard, Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason, Tom Keatinge and Anne-Marie Barry/Royal United Services Institute on bank cooperation with law enforcement] More on bank privacy here.

In other news of governments’ war on financial privacy, the Internal Revenue Service has demanded transaction and customer records for U.S. customers of Bitcoin exchange Coinbase [Jacob Gershman, WSJ]


  • What I find amazing is that such an effort and such a major violation of privacy is engaged in not to prevent the loss of life through war or terrorism or for some other truly important purpose but for such a triviality as suppressing prostitution.

    • For the moral entrepreneurs who instigate, drive and profit from such panics, no purpose can possibly be as important as suppressing the object of their panic. In fact, they often “reason” and propagandize that the target of their panic is a cause of the greater harms such as war or terrorism.

      For example: Without prostitution, husbands would be faithful to their wives, so there would be no more broken homes leaving children poor and without a family to raise them. Poor abandoned children grow up to lead desperate lives of crime, only one small step from terrorism. They are often trafficked by the more sophisticated criminals, and thus become fodder for even more human trafficking. This leads to even more prostitution, more abandoned children, etc.

      The circular reasoning is hermetically sealed against interjection of any external facts, logic or possibly conflicting moral values. For the gullible, that is enough to prove the moral entrepreneur’s case.

  • This moral panic about “sex trafficking” and crazy lengths to catch people (like the myth that thousands of women are sex-trafficked for the Super Bowl, as if people who pay all that money to travel and see a football game are going to have time to hang with hookers, and that local hookers won’t fill the need) is as crazy as Pizzagate. But instead of running to pizza restaurants with guns, the anti-sex crowd uses the government to do wave the guns for them.