In a world where constant on and offline surveillance by nation states seems to have become the norm, it’s perhaps little wonder that systems aiming to de-centralize services and maintain privacy have become targets.
In a new report, sponsored by the U.S. government, the influential RAND Corporation paints a bleak picture for the future of Bitcoin and other such technologies based around blockchains and encryption. According to this report, Bitcoin and blockchain technologies are actually succeeding in their primary goal of offering de-centralized, anonymized and resilient services to users around the world.
While that may sound like good news for many users, the report goes on to explain that this is in fact “agnostic to the national security interests of the United States”. Another big problem that the advancement of these technologies brings to the table is the dissemination of information regarding online encryption. Apparently, spreading knowledge of means of encryption and security among the general populace is a very bad idea.
The think tank then goes on to suggest that nation-states, particularly the U.S., should attack services like Bitcoin and other blockchain-based systems, through sophisticated technological means, to undermine their key strengths in the public perception: security, stability and privacy.
So why exactly are these systems, including Bitcoin, “agnostic” to the U.S. and other nation states’ interests? The report focuses on the fact that these technologies could be used by groups, maybe terrorists, to set up persistent communications and currencies that could be almost impossible to disrupt. And that sounds bad.
But there’s another argument which comes up again and again in the original report, and that’s simply the fact that nation-states, again particularly focusing on the U.S., would simply be unable to control or interfere in such systems if they’re developed and widespread.
It’s very doubtful that the debate around encryption and privacy will die down anytime soon, and for good reason, as this is perhaps one of the most important issues for human rights at the beginning of this 21st century.