Protests In Hong Kong And Minneapolis Show The Need For Privacy And Bitcoin
(Source: forbes.com)

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(Original link: forbes.com)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas, 1951
Dylan Thomas’ renowned poem explicitly discusses the topic of death and urges the reader to seize life; however, it carries a raw emotion that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of today’s globally-interconnected society. The world has been lit ablaze as protestors filled the streets of Hong Kong and Minneapolis, Minnesota to demonstrate their disdain of the status quo.
Although they are fighting different causes, both protests are reactions to oppressive actions and distrust of authority figures. Much of this distrust is warranted as it spans the death of 46-year old George Floyd, the loss of sovereignty to a world power, and the mishandling of the coronavirus by our governments and formerly most-respected institutions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said , “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.” Pompeo’s comment was in response to years of worsening tensions between China and Hong Kong. These tensions reached their zenith as new legislature was recently approved to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism, and any subjective act that might threaten China’s national security and interests in Hong Kong.
Similarly, the recent riots in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities were caused by the excessive use of police force which killed African-American George Floyd. Although Floyd’s death sparked the initial revolt, the uprising gained momentum amongst communities rife with government lockdown-induced unemployment as they looted and destroyed local businesses.
Riots and protests are a symptom of a deeper societal issue, in which everyday citizens are compelled to take drastic, sometimes violent measures to voice their concerns and shock the system in an attempt to induce tangible change. As rioters display their fear that the powers-that-be will confiscate their rights, property, wealth, and sovereignty, new technologies may serve as a more potent force to protect individuals from such overreach.
Cryptocurrencies Are A Defensive Technology
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are fundamentally a defensive technology. Crypto assets are bearer assets which users are able to self-custody, and with the right security practices, minimize the risk of confiscation. By memorizing a list of 12 randomly generated words, users can safeguard their wealth and access their Bitcoin in any jurisdiction. Furthermore, as scarce assets with predefined supply schedules, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are immune to the manipulation and whims of politicians or central bankers, who have flooded the system with newly printed fiat currency.
One weakness of blockchain technology is the open and public nature of the ledger. The system is pseudonymous, which allows users to create new wallet addresses without providing personally identifiable information. However, these wallet addresses, incoming and outgoing transaction activity, and the amounts in each wallet are publicly viewable by anyone with a block explorer .
Thus, most crypto transactions leak material information and the industry is contending with different methods of implementing enhanced user privacy. These efforts may come at the base-layer with confidential transactions baked into the core protocol (i.e. Zcash and Monero) or at the wallet/application layer (i.e. peer-to-peer exchanges, coin mixers, Tor-integrated wallets, etc.).
These privacy tools are not just to assuage the paranoia of radical anarchists afraid of doomsday government tyranny, but are needed today to protect civil liberties in the face of palpable oppression. In fact, Hong Kong protestors reportedly were queued up to access cash in lieu of using their rechargeable Octopus smart card as a payment rail, for fear of leaving a paper trail of them having been present at a protest. This is a fear well-founded as police used card data to press charges against protest leaders of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014.
Additionally, popular Chinese communication and social media platforms WeChat and Weibo censored content related to the Hong Kong protests. On both platforms, the phrase “let’s go Hong Kong” was blocked with Weibo citing “relevant laws, regulations, and policies” as the reason. To bypass firewalls, increase privacy, and prevent censorship, crypto project Orchid is launching a crypto-backed VPN application enabling internet privacy on mobile devices. Using the OXT token, users can purchase bandwidth from providers without restrictions.
Central Bank Digital Currencies Will Try To Exert Control
China and the US have been progressing with their proposals to use blockchain for a digital fiat currency, also known as Central Bank Digital Currencies (“CBDCs”). China’s PBOC is already reportedly testing its CBDC and former CFTC Chairman Chris Giancarlo recently published th...