‘The Entire Internet… Is a Giant Surveillance Machine’ — Andreas Antonopoulos on Privacy Before Scaling
Bitcoin thought leader Andreas Antonopoulos labeled the internet a “giant surveillance machine” in support of his argument that privacy should be prioritized over scaling on the bitcoin roadmap.
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Are Second Layer Privacy Protocols Enough?
In a YouTube clip released on August 25th, Antonopoulos showed footage of his talk in Denver as part of his Internet of Money Tour, following it up with a few Q&As from his monthly Patreon Q&A sessions.
The talking points all centered around the theme of privacy. Antonopoulos argued fervently that privacy was a more pressing concern for bitcoin than scaling. The author contrasted starkly in this regard to the general sense of anticipation of bitcoin ETFs for the institutional money they would attract, and the widespread adoptionists yearning for a conclusion to bear market fatigue.
When questioned as to whether he foresaw a privacy-enhancing second layer bitcoin protocol tweak obviating the need for privacy coins, Antonopoulos answered:
“Privacy is probably one of those fundamental things that needs to be done and it needs to be done in the base protocol of bitcoin, and it is on the roadmap…”
He followed with a pointed — and to the widespread adoption crowd, controversial — statement:
“Privacy before scaling. You can do scaling in layer two, and you can’t do privacy in layer two if layer one isn’t private…”
The Lesson We’ve Learned From That Giant Surveillance Machine — the Internet
Antonopoulos went further, demonstrating a belief that bitcoin and cryptocurrency were potentially society’s last best chance to salvage our right to privacy — a right we allowed the development of the internet as we know it and the puppet masters that control it to revoke us of. Though eloquently delivered, his attack on how the internet has evolved was scathing:
“We learned that lesson the hard way with the internet, and it has been a disaster from that perspective. IPV4 did not incorporate privacy features and, as a result, the correct economic incentives were there to turn the entire internet into a giant surveillance machine. Now, there are parts of it that are encrypted, but most of us don’t use those parts. And so as a result, we all suffer.”
Second Layer Protocols Can Help, Though
Antonopoulos did concede that not all will be lost if the best that bitcoin developers can produce are second layer privacy protocols on top of a public base layer:
“There’s also second layer privacy technology. Lightning Network significantly improves the privacy profile of bitcoin use.”
But his preference would clearly be to prioritize privacy over scaling. And to do it at the base layer:
“Privacy is so important it has to be done first.”
What About Fungible Coins?
Antonopoulos may primarily be an advocate of bitcoin, but he clearly respects the privacy features of the fungible class of coins. So much so, that he would prefer those features be a part of all currencies:
“I would prefer to see privacy in every currency. In fact, I think currency without privacy is a bug. And it’s a dangerous bug which, if not fixed, will have consequences.”
Despite bitcoin’s shortcomings in this regards, Antonopoulos sees a bright future in technological changes to come:
“We will see the second layer networks eventually become multi-currency routing networks, meaning that all of the blockchains will be connected in a higher layer so that you can move between currencies, in milliseconds, transparently, for almost no fees or no fees at all, and at that point, the privacy currency is one swap away from the one you’re using now, and it becomes very easy to be fungible.”
He also discussed the combination of Schnorr signatures with Taproot and Graftroot cryptography innovations, which are predicted to arrive as an opt-in package of upgrades in a soft fork. He sees this combination promising to bring privacy features to the bitcoin blockchain through the “aggregation of signatures across signers”.
These innovations would make multi-signature transactions look like a single signature public key transaction. The multi-sig transactions would become indistinguishable, offering privacy benefits to any users, whether or not they were actively seeking anonymity.
How Crypto Privacy Overturns a Cruel Irony
Antonopoulos’ worldview may be dark, but his trust in cryptocurrency to forge a new paradigm of decentralized power is inspired. Those in power, who should be transparent and accountable, enjoy the fiscal fruits of privacy. Private citizens, on the other hand, encounter surveillance on a daily basis, especially in terms of their financial affairs.
Cryptocurrency has the potential to overturn that, ironically by democratizing privacy. Per Antonopoulos:
“A private system can be transparent, but a transparent system can’t be private.”
Affording privacy to everyone and demanding transparency of the powerful is how, in Antonopoulos’ eyes, cryptocurrency can democratize accessibility to privacy in order to force transparency onto those who are duty bound to be subjected to it.
Let’s hear your take. All this is a philosophical head spinner, but fascinating stuff. Can privacy features in cryptocurrency overturn the giant surveillance machine that is the centralized internet and revoke the privacy privileges afforded to those who should be subjected to public scrutiny?
Images via Pixabay