Coronavirus broke privacy. Crypto can help fix it

As the coronavirus plunges the world into a seemingly never-ending crisis, the spread of the disease has become more than just a health problem. The world economy is standing still and millions of jobs are – and will remain – lost.

But perhaps even more worrying is the potentially dangerous reach of the state. Governments and countries where freedom is already under threat have introduced new rules and regulations.Russia or Chinafor example – and authorities are monitoring their citizens like never before. NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden said in an April interview that governments around the world will use the Corona virus crisis to build “the architecture of oppression. ‘

And these concerns are not limited to authoritarian states. Countries are worldwide speed up to create a global digital ID system. This is nothing new – the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and Big Tech have been working together to create global digital IDs since 2014 – but COVID-19 provides the perfect opportunity for governments to accelerate their efforts. And advocates of digital privacy, especially in the crypto community, told it Decrypt they are concerned about this.

But there are solutions – and crypto is one of them. Tyler Winklevoss, CEO of New York-based cryptocurrency exchange, Gemini, said that cryptocurrencies, as well as a number of online projects, promote “freedom, opportunity, and human dignity” in light of COVID-19 and the potential authoritarianism that may emerge.

“I fear that this pandemic, like many other crises, will be used by governments to justify over-reaching policies and the violation of human rights and civil liberties around the world,” said Winklevoss Decrypt in an email.

“Crypto can counteract this. Zcash, a privacy-focused version of bitcoin, can help users fight back against draconian capital controls and authoritarian states, “he added, saying that other projects, such as Brave Browser and Orchard, can” restore your privacy when you browse the Internet “. ‘

Decrypt spoke to others in the crypto world who said there are concerns that digital identification systems can be used to not only monitor but even censor financial transactions.

“It is also possible to create an economic panopticon with a digital currency or blockchain, where everyone’s transactions are subject to approval, censorship and if you try to get out of line you will lose your savings,” said Kieran Mesquita, a developer working on privacy protocols for Bitcoin Cash. “The difference is in sovereignty. I don’t see digital ID as inherently bad, but I do see an issue where control of such systems is delegated to a central power. ”

Sovereign ID projects can fix this, said Chris Troutner, a senior JavaScript developer at Decrypt. IDs are important. But identifying individual people is dangerous, “he said, adding that Bitcoin Cash addresses can be used as a digital ID – something” much more secure. ” He mentioned Cash ID and CashAccounts as software that uses someone’s private key as authentication.

Developers working at Bitcoin Cash are currently working on protocols to personalize Bitcoin Cash with CashShuffle and CashFusion. Right now, users can use the CashShuffle protocol to have a sense of anonymity. CashShuffle allows users to mix their coins with other network participants. And developers are working on CashFusion, another protocol – not yet released – that can encrypt a user’s wallet.

Mesquita said that when using these Bitcoin Cash privacy protocols, the currency’s privacy is “ good enough ” for “ daily privacy. ” But for true privacy – the kind of privacy you might need under an oppressive regime – it’s better to look elsewhere. He added that “Monero and Zcash have been the most tested in combat”.

Troutner said that one can use both CashShuffle and CashFusion together to maintain an even higher sense of privacy. Although this method is complex.

“I think privacy is incredibly important to anyone who wants to take personal responsibility for their lives,” he said. All over the world we see evidence of the government’s collapse. We are also witnessing the dissolution of people’s right to privacy, as well as other rights such as free speech. ”

“Bitcoin Cash is unique in that it has no built-in privacy, but protocols such as CashFusion and CashShuffle can provide privacy.”

He added that privacy with Bitcoin Cash could be compromised if a ‘state actor’ wanted to track transactions.

Which crypto should I use?

In terms of the best currencies to protect yourself from prying eyes of a government, Monero, as Mesquita pointed out, is one of the most private.

When using Monero, wallet addresses and transactions are deliberately hidden from view so that people can use the currency secretly. This is done by means of ring signatures: a digital signature in which a group of potential signers is merged into a distinctive stamp that can authorize a transaction. This essentially removes all traces of the sender, recipient and the amount sent.

Almutasim, an employee of Monero, said Decrypt that Monero “is not at risk of connecting individuals to addresses.”

“Every transaction hides the sender, the recipient and the amount – each in the sense of addresses,” he said. So even if a government or other entity manages to match an address to an individual, little privacy is lost. The discoverer of the connection – without any other special knowledge – cannot know how much Monero the person has or has had or with whom the person has interacted. ‘

Other very private currencies include Zcash or the more obscure Grin. While not all of Zcash’s transactions are secret by default, and Grin is still in experimental stages.

But whichever currency you choose, one thing is certain: privacy – especially financial privacy – has never been more important. As governments around the world accelerate efforts to track and track citizens, the race to find privacy solutions is becoming more urgent.

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