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3 Ways Governments Could Use Blockchain Technology to Oppress its Citizens

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blockchain technology to oppress

The blockchain has many applications for the public sector that can improve the quality of government services, safeguard property rights, prevent fraud, and cut red tape while improving transparency. However, what is not often discussed, is that malicious governments could also use blockchain technology to oppress its citizens.

This article highlights how governments could potentially misuse the blockchain to reduce the individual liberties of its citizens and suppress those with opposing views.

When a Sovereign Digital Currency Means Tracking All Financial Transactions

Blockchain-based decentralised digital currencies have the potential to enable economic, political and social freedom. Conversely, the emergence of sovereign centralized “cryptocurrencies” – issued by central banks – contradicts everything that bitcoin and the blockchain stand for and hoped to fix.

agentThe main goal of cryptocurrencies was to decentralize power, not to boost existing authorities. With centralized state-run blockchains, power is heavily concentrated as governments maintain control over the entire network.

Government-controlled cryptocurrencies could impose dangerous limitations on citizen’s civil freedoms, including pervasive anti-privacy measures.

By being able to track every single financial transaction, citizens would lose their financial sovereignty and the personal freedom that comes with spending one’s money on whatever a citizen wants.

Having every single transaction tracked would inevitably lead to mass financial data collection to determine behavioural and spending patterns of each individual in the country, which could be used against them, should they become at odds with the government or someone with close government ties.

When Blockchain-based Digital Identities Are Used to Track Digital Footprints

One of the most impactful developments in the blockchain industry has been the advancement of secure digital identities. Identification is needed for everything from voting to health care. For the over one billion people worldwide who do not have a legal form of identity, digital identities can provide a much-needed solution.

Digital identities can be stored on a blockchain, which can then be used to handle information such as a patient’s medical records, which can be easily and safely accessed by a health care provider when they are seeking care.

However, if a malicious government has full control of the digital ID system and all its citizens’ data, it could use this to track each citizen’s digital footprints. For example, if the social media accounts, financial services, mobile payment firms accounts of citizens are bound to their digital identity, the government could very easily track individuals’ movements in real-time.

This already happens to a degree in countries like the U.S and U.K. as we learned from Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. Every day, intelligence agencies collect hundreds of millions of emails, texts, and phone calls and can collect and sift through billions more. The surveillance technology for tracking and identifying people is booming as is governments’ appetite for it. Add in the current digital tracking systems with facial recognition software and digital identities, and this endangers citizen’s right to privacy.

Blockchain-based digital identity systems thus need to be implemented with care and the oversight of the network should not be limited to the government as the potential for misuse is huge.

When Digital Identities Are Used to Create a Social Credit Scoring System

surveillance

Credit scores dictate a person’s involvement in the financial system, including loan or mortgage approvals, interest rates, and insurance rates. It can impact someone’s ability to rent an apartment or secure a credit card, for example.

China’s latest surveillance efforts include a social credit system that aims to rate each citizen’s social value according to their actions.

Drawing data from government agencies, court verdicts, and even mobile payment firms, the scheme assigns each person an individual score. Failure to repay debts or smoked on a train, you could land on a blacklist posted on a public website. The plan is to rate citizens by their financial and legal histories, their online behaviour, education records, and employment activities.

If such an oppressive social credit scoring system is implemented and interlinked with blockchain technology, the data stored on the system would become immutable and easily shareable with permissioned third parties, such as corporations, who could, in turn, limit low-ranking individuals’ ability to live freely even further.

Such a system could be used by governments to oppress its citizens especially those seen as having a lesser value or those that threaten its power. The blockchain could potentially amplify the oppressive nature of such a social credit scoring system.

Keep Your Leaders in Check

While the blockchain was created to decentralize power, the unfortunate reality is that as the technology has evolved, there are now ways it could be used to make oppressive governments more powerful.

Hence, it is important to stay mindful of how the blockchain can be misused when you hear of your government implementing a new blockchain initiative and to speak up if the initiative could go turn into a tool of oppression.

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4 Reasons Why Black Lives Matter Should Start Accepting Bitcoin

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Black Lives Matter

Systemic anti-black racism is prevalent across the globe. A series of events in the US have catalysed countrywide protests, bringing more eyes to one of the biggest movements against racism, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

In this piece, we explore the reasons Black Lives Matter would benefit from adopting bitcoin as a method of accepting donations.

Bitcoin Is A Peaceful Protest

black lives matter bitcoinAttempting to resist a system that oppresses you, while leveraging the tools employed by the same system, can be counterproductive and undermine. For movements like Black Lives Matter, it is imperative to utilise systems outside of traditional resources that are not tainted with the prejudice that disenfranchises BIPOC.

In the United States, the black community has long complained of unsatisfactory access to traditional financial services. While there is no shortage of research papers and statistics on race issues, given the current climate, it is important for us to contextualise and understand how traditional financial systems underserve black people in the US.

A study by McKinsey & Co published shows a direct link between weaker financial power and a lack of access to financial services like banking. For instance, predominantly white counties have an average of 41 financial service providers, while black ones have 27 of these financial firms. Further, banking in these black counties is mostly more expensive as compared to white-counties.

Moreover, despite being underserved, black people are overcharged by banks in the very few situations where services are available. 

There are several other examples mentioned in the report that paints a vivid picture of the extent to which black people are unbanked. Other examples cited in the report include requiring higher account balances and difficulty in accessing loans.

This is where bitcoin can come in.

Bitcoin knows no race and does not discriminate. Everyone anywhere can get a bitcoin wallet and purchase bitcoin online. 

By leveraging bitcoin, progressive movements like Black Lives Matter can send a powerful message, addressing the underlying racism prevalent in traditional financial services. With enough steam, it may eventually aid to break down the archaic financial systems that continue to aid in the oppression of minority groups all over the world.

If there is any single reason for Black Lives Mater to accept bitcoin donations, it is because using bitcoin is another form of protest.

Bitcoin Is Censorship-Resistant

Black Lives Matter may find favour in the eyes of regulators and payment processes like Paypal. At this point, it will be almost suicidal for anyone to consider cutting payment channels to the movement. However, if historical precedence is anything to learn from, it is all fun and games till it is not.

WikiLeaks, the famous, was banned by PayPal in 2010 for violating its policies and terms of service.

Before then, over $1 million of donations towards WikiLeaks had come through PayPal. Black Lives Matter may be different from WikiLeaks. However, any loophole that provides an avenue for censorship must be sealed moving forward to secure the future financial backing of the movement. 

Accepting bitcoin as donations would provide a viable alternative, especially given its censorship-resistant nature.

Private Donations 

Sometimes people prefer to give privately without revealing their identity.

Between bitcoin and traditional online payment methods, bitcoin allows for more private transactions. To factor in the privacy-conscious crowd who could be interested in donating to the movement, Black Lives Matter is likely to benefit from accepting bitcoin.

Even though the anonymous nature of bitcoin has been at the centre of debates, Bitcoin’s pseudonymity makes it undisputedly a more privacy-conscious financial tool than PayPal or bank payments. 

Access to a Wider Audience

Black Lives Matter

PayPal may seem like the ultimate financial tool for many, but that is not the case in many places. In some parts of the world, people are unable to use PayPal due to the unavailability of service in their region.

Bitcoin is a universal payment method that is accessible by anyone, anywhere in the world. In every corner where there is connectivity, people can use bitcoin as money. BLM will open up donations to people from all parts of the world.

While there still are people in the Bitcoin community who hold ideologies that belong to past centuries, there are also a lot of people in Bitcoin who support BLM and other movements around the world that fight against oppression. By allowing people to send donations via bitcoin, BLM opens up to bitcoiners around the world who support Black Lives Matter.

In a world where tools that aid human sovereignty have evolved to the point where there is revolutionary money, free from traditional systems, movements like BLM can harness innovations like Bitcoin to further their cause.

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Zimbabwe’s New Foreign Currency Regulations Could Affect Bitcoin Trading

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Zimbabwe’s New Foreign Currency Regulations

Zimbabwe’s newly introduced foreign currency regulations threaten peer-to-peer bitcoin trading via messaging apps.

New Foreign Currency Regulations

The Zimbabwean economy – which has been hit by hyperinflation – endures an ongoing shortage of foreign currencies. Authorities blame illegal foreign currency dealers for exacerbating the situation thus hastening the fall of the local currency. Several regulations have been introduced in the past few months to arrest the situation.

A recent directive by a unit within Zimbabwe’s central bank to outlaw advertisements relating to foreign currency trading has sparked off a panic within Bitcoin trading communities.

The latest decision comes in the wake of a sharp depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar against the US dollar. Economists blame the country’s biting foreign currency shortages for the local currency’s free fall.

The central bank has pegged the exchange rate at 1 USD for every 25 Zimbabwean dollars towards the end of March. However, the black market rate is now 1:80 or higher.

Financial Intelligence Unit Onslaught

On June 15, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe circulated a document that is threatening to freeze bank and mobile money accounts of those caught putting up any advertisements relating to foreign currency trading in social media chat groups.

The FIU alleges it is aware that some WhatsApp groups have mushroomed for the specific purpose of promoting and facilitating ‘illegal’ foreign currency dealings.

Parts of the statement reads:

“The FIU, in collaboration with the police, banks, mobile money/mobile money service providers and relevant regulatory agencies, has embarked on an exercise to identify and take action against individuals who create, advertise on or participate (actively or passively) in WhatsApp groups or other platforms for illegal foreign currency trading.”

The statement goes on to list the steps authorities will take against those caught on the wrong side of these regulations.

Panic in Crypto-Related Chat Groups

ICE3X Launches Debit Card

Some within the cryptocurrency trading communities have suggested that this directive encompasses bitcoin trading as well. Bitcoin trades, just like with the so-called foreign currency black-market trades, are often initiated in social media chat groups.

Moreover, bitcoin-to-fiat trading is typically conducted in foreign currencies like US dollars. Although, there are trades where local mobile money is the preferred method of payment.

Consequently, some traders are now taking precautions by replacing their local WhatsApp phone numbers with foreign ones. The use of foreign phone numbers helps to masks the real identity of traders and their bank accounts from being targeted.

Yet others are adamant that bitcoin—which the central bank has not recognised as currency—is, in fact, a digital asset. As such, it is exempt from the FIU directive. However, the broad terms used in the FIU statement suggest authorities are trying to go after all platforms where foreign currency is exchanged.

Still, others are not overly worried insisting that FIU lacks the capacity to achieve this kind of surveillance and policing. In any case, they say Whatsapp messages are protected with end-to-end encryption. 

BitcoinAfrica.io reached out to FIU to get clarification on the some of the issues raised by bitcoin traders. However, we did not receive a response at the time of publishing.

No Crypto-Specific Regulation

Zimbabwe, just like many of its counterparts on the African continent, does not have regulations that specifically govern cryptocurrency trading. The country’s central bank has in the past issued press statements advising the public against dealing in cryptocurrencies.

At the same time, it banned financial institutions from facilitating the movement of funds between fiat to crypto and vice versa. These decisions culminated in the shutdown of Golix, a cryptocurrency exchange in 2018.

However, since then there has been an apparent rapprochement by the central bank concerning its blockchain technology. For instance, in its last monetary policy statement, monetary authorities again touted the potential of blockchain technology. They even encouraged financial institutions to adopt this.

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Chainalysis and A&D Forensics Partnership to Boost Access to Cryptocurrency Investigative Technology in Africa

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A&D Forensics

Institutions in Africa can now access cryptocurrency investigative technology following a partnership between Chainalysis and A&D Forensics.

Chainalysis and A&D Forensics Partnership

From romance-related crypto scams to shady ICOs, Africa has had its share of illicit investment opportunities. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of that dark investment tunnel. With Chainalysis Reactor, financial institutions, governments, regulators, and cryptocurrency exchanges can identify and stop scam propagators from harming consumers.

“By partnering with Chainalysis, we are providing the African cryptocurrency ecosystem with the investigative technology that it needs to fully understand blockchain activity,” said Senior Partner at A&D Forensics, Adedeji Owonibi.

Chainalysis Reactor is an investigation software by New York-based blockchain analysis company Chainalysis. The software connects institutions to cryptocurrency transactions allowing them to stop criminal activity.

One of the initiatives culminating from the partnership is a plan to work with cryptocurrency training specialists. These specialists will assist regulators, compliance officers, investigators, and analysts to perform blockchain analysis to derive actionable intelligence using Chainalysis Reactor.

A&D Forensics is a Digital and Financial Forensic firm based in Nigeria. One of the services the company offers is blockchain intelligence on crypto-related criminal activities.

How Chainalysis Reactor Works

ChainalysisChainalysis Reactor has a search feature that can tell users which entities are linked to a given wallet and the related cryptocurrency addresses. Moreover, the software scans thousands of forums and darknet websites for relevant intelligence.

Chainalysis Reactor connects cryptocurrency transactions to activities taking place in the real world. Also, users can use the “watch” feature to keep tabs on the future transactions the party of interest carries out.

Another important feature that the software provides is the ability to follow the money. With powerful visualisations, users can create the path of funds under investigation. Additionally, the software can link any suspicious activity identified along that path to real-world entities.

The Chainalysis software is a powerful tool that could benefit many institutions. For example, regulators can track the funds raised during an ICO to confirm that the money was used in the right way. Institutions interested in this software can request for a demo on the Chainalysis website.

Trust is imperative in the cryptocurrency industry now more than ever. With crypto-related scams cropping up now and then, consumers are becoming jittery. Therefore, the Chainalysis and A&D Forensics collaboration could offer transparency in the African cryptocurrency space to encourage government adoption and increase consumer confidence.

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