Privacy is a Delicate Human Right

July 10, 2018 / by Carly Capko

Mao Tse Tung himself probably didn’t know that the dissidents who accepted his 1956 invitation to critique China’s communist regime would come to a bad end. His 100 Flowers Campaign started out as a way to germinate ideas for a better China and reunite disenfranchised intellectuals and free thinkers with their government.

It succeeded in that regard if condemning people to prison labor camps can be considered a reunification with the government. But it’s how they got there that is important to us. These dissidents joined China’s prison labor force by putting their private ideas into public view.

The threat of putting private information — no matter how well masked — in “public view” along with the modern potential to analyze data has some concerned that Bitcoin and blockchain are vulnerable. Blockchain analysis, such as that proposed in Amazon’s recent patent application, has the potential to erode privacy in big ways, and Edward Snowden underscored this weakness recently when he said that Bitcoin’s open ledger, not fees or speed, is its biggest flaw.

As we’ve mentioned before, the first half of cryptocurrency literally means “secret.” So it’s clear the early movers in this space meant for privacy to be primary. We know this vulnerability is real, but as we’ve seen over and over with cryptocurrency, the things of this space — whether the actual blockchain, the network, the miners, the developers or the community that argues the finer points night and day — this place adapts and evolves in response to any threat. 

At Crypto.IQ, we’re seeing a coming together of public thought about privacy rights and this evolution, and we believe it bodes well for the future of the space. People are paying attention to their privacy like never before. List a few corporations — Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Google, Target, Home Depot, Equifax — and most will right away know the topic is privacy. The news is filled with stories about corporate and governmental intrusion into their personal lives with data collection that, at best, is used against them in marketing. At worst, it could eventually look more like Mao. 

This is especially important in the cryptocurrency realm, where much more than money will someday ride the blockchain. Experts expect the technology to revolutionize communications, how governments and private entities store every kind of record, and countless other uses that convey and store data any sane person would want kept private.

A common misconception in the public discussion on privacy is that, at least when it comes to government surveillance, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. And there are many examples of this being correct — until it isn’t.

Our advice at Crypto.IQ, if you want your transactions private, is to take matters into your own hands. It’s yet another aspect of the personal responsibility that is so much a part of crypto and, we believe, life in general. For whatever reason you want to keep a transaction private, and there are plenty of legal ones, there are steps you can take to ensure that. You can also move money from Bitcoin to Monero to take advantage of its powerful privacy features.

That the Chinese dissidents had publicly attached their names to their ideas just made rounding them up that much easier. And that’s why Mao’s treachery is a cautionary tale for those who would say they have “nothing to hide,” that everything they do is legal. It’s an argument for privacy that’s difficult to counter because history tells us that rulers sometimes change their rules retroactively, as Mao did a year after launching 100 Flowers.