One of the most underrated civil liberties of our time is financial privacy, and I don't think people understand how big this is, and how big it will become.
We were worried about govt becoming too big so we devised a Constitution. We were also worried about companies getting too big so we regulated them. But when we combined the two, we got a govt that could get bigger than anticipated via...companies we are worried are too big.
It gets more concerning. The allies of liberty are in several camps. One crucial one is what I'll call Brandeis-ian progressives--ppl who believe in robust competition & small businesses & worry about what big powerful interests can do, to our jobs & to our way of life.
Sina Kian@SinaKian1·Apr 1The unfortunate thing is, a lot of ppl who *should* be in that camp are drifting from it. Why? Bc they pursued their regulatory goals in a way that made them dependent on the big intermediaries--and so they see activity outside of that construct as dangerous & evasive.
I want to expressly highlight that irony. Ppl started w the realization that competition is good & companies that are "too big" are bad, and ended w needing the "too big" companies, making them arms of the govt, and worrying about competition/anything outside of that construct.
OK, so what does all this have to do with financial privacy? Finally we have developed the technology (crypto) to allow digital transactions that are peer-to-peer, just like cash/barter. This is using tech to take us back to "the way it was." Why might we want that?
Bc we want to give ppl freedom from large corps--and bc we want financial companies to compete to earn customers, not to get them bc it's one of the only ways to transact. And it lets ppl live their lives w/o a corporation they have to trust--and who often prove untrustworthy.
But now bc *the govt* is dependent on those corporations, it's uncomfortable w/ a world where ppl, and not large corps, have power. The govt's AML & sanctions goals are important policy goals. Rn they are "achieved" by requiring or leaning on companies to share certain info.
So when p2p digital money emerges, rather than celebrating competition against the "too big to fail" system, some govts want it to go through that system bc it already has all the bells/whistles of KYC/AML regs--or to share sensitive information in most every p2p transaction.
E.g., imagine a "Venmo" that works based on a p2p algorithm rather than a corporate intermediary. Would you Venmo ppl if you had to share your SSN w every person you Venmo'd? Would you accept Venmo if you had to hire a compliance company to help you store/record other ppl's info?
Thus, what these rules do is *require*: (1) massive financial surveillance; (2) entities that are willing to do massive financial surveillance. Put differently, they require the status quo, and they basically prevent competition against this status quo.
Stepping back, when the internet was invented, ppl wrongly thought it would be ungovernable -- they wrongly thought that identities, transactions, and conduct (like search results, etc) would be anonymous. It was the opposite. You were tracked, traced, and analyzed.
We walked blindly into "big data" business models of web2, not knowing what we traded for "free" services. Their algorithms studied us and used their conclusions to divide us and pit us against each other, bc that was short/medium-term profitable.
We risk doing it again: thinking "evasion" is the problem & walking instead into a world where your every transaction will be tracked, traced, & analyzed. Law abiding citizens are liable to underestimate the importance of this bc they don't have much or anything they would hide.
But three points. One, it's not about *you.* It's about how ppl/algorithms use data. Not understanding that is why ppl thought "oh well my social media activity is innocuous" instead of "oh wow the sum of this data will increase partisanship, domestic tension, & misinformation."
Second, don't assume a reasonable govt. The q you should ask is "who is the worst imaginable person who could win an election & what would they do w the info." Don't forget history. It wasn't long ago that govt tracked MLK and tried to undermine him with the info they learned.
Third, we underestimate our power on the international stage here. We help set precedent in the world. If we err towards a financial surveillance state, so will other govts. This will be a huge threat to human rights and dissident organizations.
This is all to say, if we're not careful about our migration to digital payments--if we blindly adopt tech or regs w/o finding ways to protect privacy, & if we rely too much on large corps--we risk important liberties we care about, and that we should care about.