While the masses are distracted with “big tech” and their authority over the town square, some powerful forces are building the machine of an Orwellian future in the guise of good works
If you haven’t been following all of the crypto news lately, I really couldn’t blame you. This is a space where so many mind-bending things happen on a daily basis, it’s easy to miss huge news stories simply by virtue of not being awake 24/7.
In this week’s article I decided to do a quick round-up of several recent events, and quickly break down their impact on privacy moving forward. Privacy remains one of the most important issues we face, because as machine-learning improves you become more open to manipulation the more they can define you.
What do I mean by “define”?
Palantir – Sauron’s Eye Over All
Palantir was funded by authoritarian dystopia-enthusiast Peter Thiel, and is literally a reference to Lord of The Rings’ evil eye of Sauron that allows the holder to see almost anything in the world.
I have to give it to them on their branding: it does what the name implies. The elevator pitch for governments is macro-collection of data from government & private sources, and then refinement into total profiles of every aspect of your existence.
“It performs a deep search of all criminal, financial, medical, communication, and clandestine agency records on the target. The company’s tech helped locate Osama bin Laden in 2011 and is being used to trace COVID-19 infections, track medical supply chains, and even predict outbreaks in pandemic hot zones.” – Palantir
I am by no means overstating the threat to privacy posed by Palantir, as it is the theoretical underpinning of every Orwellian hellscape that you might imagine. That said, I won’t spend too long going into how godawful Palantir is, but I will say that privacy concerns have been raised regarding the massive stores of personal data Palantir has already aggregated.
When you talk about public ledgers, be aware that all of your public transactional data is likely to end up in Palantir’s profiles or databases. If a company sells data or collects it from public sources, then Palantir is their likeliest customer.
The Bitfinex Hackers: Lessons Learned
When the couple who allegedly hacked Bitfinex in 2016 were caught recently, a lot of information came out about how they were traced.
Now, far be it for me to tell criminals how to crime properly, but I think we can learn an awful lot about privacy from their story.
Hackers in the past have been caught because they used centralized exchange wallets, or hosted a wallet on a centralized server. This was definitely a factor, here, but specifically these folks were caught because they used a Gift Card Exchange site like Bitrefill or Coinsbee to purchase several gift cards using crypto.
Now, multiple things linked their actual identities to this purchase. For one, they’d registered a Russian email account, but through previous uses the account was connected to their IP address. Additionally, they redeemed cards through mobile apps on their personal devices.
All of these threads can be traced back to the gift card exchange account, and the transactions sent there can be traced back to your wallet(s). This is a great example of centralized & decentralized services being used in tandem to trace transactions to a personal identity, and complete a total profile based on that & other connected data points.
CBDCs: The New Weapons of War
With China’s rollout of the digital yuan, as well as El Salvador’s acceptance of Bitcoin as legal tender, governments worldwide are scrambling to determine what impact that new virtual economy will have on national economies & paper currencies.
We can rest assured that any moves taken by the US government will be well thought-out & nuanced approaches to virtual currencies, especially since they’re being pushed by stable genius & member of the House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology, Marsha Blackburn.
Aside from funding more bureaucracy to analyze & problematize digital currency, supporting senators like Cynthia Lummis are additionally urging US athletes not to make use of the digital yuan at the Olympics.
As nations pivot to digital currencies, expect to see more tracking of transactions & enforcement measures to penalize users tangentially connected to foreign powers’ CBDCs & derivatives. This is already happening in regards to sanctions imposed on Russia & the vast majority of centralized exchanges being unwilling to assist in blacklisting users from there.
The Executive Order
Last but certainly not least, US President Joe Biden’s recent executive order on crypto. You will see an awful lot of outlets breathing a collective sigh of relief because this wasn’t the extreme regulatory overreach that some have been expecting since the order was hinted at, last October.
While the order is overall fairly accommodating, as with the above bill proposed by senator Blackburn, it is purposefully vague in pushing studies to analyze the impacts of cryptocurrencies, and ways to mitigate perceived national risks.
With money-laundering, tax avoidance, and sanctions being the chief concerns – you can bet on privacy & chain analysis being key to the conversation. How the government tackles these issues will help determine the future of this space, and personal privacy as a whole.
Keeping Your Privates Private
While we don’t yet know how most of this will pan out, there are already some steps that you can take in order to better protect your privacy in the present.
You should be utilizing separate email addresses, wallets, and VPNs/VPS’ in your everyday life. Think of each gap in privacy like a string of yarn that leads back to everything you don’t want readily available to the entire world: cutting that string as often as possible is the best way to disguise that trail.
As we see more Palantirs spring up, we must all come to terms with the fact that privacy isn’t just for criminals. It isn’t just for terrorists or rogue states. Privacy is the thing that keeps you from being just another manipulatable cog in a broken machine. Without it, you are just a series of traits & flags that can be gamed to control every aspect of your existence.
Until next time, be aware of what you’re exposing. Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not after you.