Welcome back to the second edition of the Liberty Crypto Reader, your weekly dispatch from the crypto brigade on the front lines of the battle for the future!
The Lightning TrustChain Makes Its Way To Iran
The Bitcoin Lightning torch or #LNTrustChain is a large scale social experiment to show off both the technological capacity as well as the community strength of the Bitcoin and Lightning network. Started in January by @Hodlonaut, the torch has passed through hundreds of users, including famously Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.
Where it hadn’t gone yet was Iran, despite the efforts of Ziya Sadr to take the torch. Indeed, Sadr was passed over numerous times, including once by someone worried about US sanctions. That was changed Saturday when the #LNTrustChain finally made it to Tehran. Accepting the Torch, Sadr wrote "We have always been censored from both sides, Sanctioned globally, and censored locally by our own gov. #Bitcoin will lead the way in censorship resistance and I'll pass the torch to other people who help the world resist censorship!” Writing about the event, prominent crypto author Michael Casey said "This confirms my belief that #LNTrustChain is the most important economic-social experiment to occur in cryptoland since the early days of bitcoin.”
Liberty and Social Scalability
Like any movement that gains mass adoption, Liberty requires social scalability. And in most human systems, social scalability is heavily impacted by trust. This is part of why Bitcoin and some other crypto projects are focused on systems of trust.
And this is why it was alarming to a lot of folks in the crypto world to see an acquisition by Coinbase of an analytics company called Neutrino. The cause of alarm had to do with the Neutrino leadership team's previous gig building HackingTeam, a notoriously anti-liberty spyware shop that sold surveillance and tracking software to authoritarian governments?!?
Exercising their own Liberty, the cryptosphere spoke up within a few days. Arjun Balaji independent researcher, investor, and someone whose work we admire, noticed it and then it turned into a viral thread by Breaker Mag’s David Morris to to be picked up not only by crypto outlets like Coindesk but larger outlets and organizations like Vice and the Electronic Freedom Foundation.
Not being on the inside of Coinbase (they are an investor in Coinmine) we don’t know what caused them to change their minds, but in a move that is certainly more aligned with their own values of freedom and liberty, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announced on Medium that the Neutrino leaders who had been previously been associated with HackingTeam would be leaving the company.
There will, of course, be cynical reactions to this news, but it remains that the people who spoke up were exercising their Liberty to do so to all of our benefit, and in changing their course to better align with their own values, Coinbase stepped up in the name liberty. Score one for Liberty. Liberty thrives in the light and when people are accountable to each other.
The Surveillance State
Speaking of the perils and power of the technology giants, Google also made news this week for refusing to remove from Google Play a government app that allows Saudis to interact with the state and which has features that allow men to track and control travel permissions for women. Not being Saudi women ourselves, we can’t speak to their experience, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t their preference, it certainly wouldn’t be ours.
Regardless of where you come out on the risks and rewards of surveillance, there is no getting around the risks of non-secured personal data at massive scale.
Primitive Ventures’ Dovey Wan points out that not only is data being surveilled, but is being kept in a non-decrypted way making it an easy target for hacking.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote about how recent database leaks in China can give us insight into the world of emerging surveillance states, while others called attention to a map add-on to WeChat that locates “deadbeat debtors.”
The surveillance state is a global epidemic with each state vilifying the next while surveilling its own people.
FacebookCoin and the new front in the privacy battle
Central Bank Digital Currencies
A theme that will probably make a regular appearance on LCR: the battle between government-controlled central bank cryptos (Central Bank Digital Currencies or CBDCs) and permissionless, censorship resistant cryptocurrencies. This was, in fact, the entire theme of last week’s What Grinds My Gears podcast - playfully called “Initial Country Offerings.” It feels likely that we will see more governments use these sort of digital fiats, as they enable new ways to raise funds and better control and citizen monitoring. Indeed, investor Ari Paul called it one of the most important human rights issues of the moment.
And right on time, The Bahamas announces its own CBDC...