Libra: Welcome to your new Surveillance Coin

Sep 6 · 5 min read

The new Chinese digital currency, the Chinese Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is being viewed as one of the ultimate ways to surveil its citizens. Libra is the other.

You’ve been Zucked! Photo Credit: Chris Boyer

The Chinese Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and Facebook’s Libra are two sides to the same coin. One deals with the most populated nation state on the planet, and the other (Libra), takes care of the rest.

How easily we as citizens give up our freedoms in exchange for so-called “security”. It tears a page from several Orwellian novels of a future dystopia where freedom is taken away piece by inexorable piece.

The protests in Hong Kong against the introduction of a bill that allowed extradition to Mainland China enlightened the rest of the world that there is such a thing as Facial Recognition Towers:

China clearly doesn’t think much about the privacy of its citizens. Yet, the same thing occurs in the rest of the world through seemingly innocuous social media sites.

The Perfect Surveillance Currency

I think Satoshi Nakamoto, wherever he or she is, is shaking their head at the idea of digital currency being used to surveil citizens of a nation state. Such a bastardization of Bitcoin’s founding ideals encapsulated in a currency that is Decentralized, with no central authorities, with no means of intercepting transactions, or confiscation, now being used to do exactly those things seems such a nightmarish reversal.

Introducing Libra and CBDC.

With a completely state sanction digital currency, one where paper money, and metal coins are done away with, all purchases and transactions, including the time and place where they occurred, can be tracked analyzed, judged and prosecuted — instantaneously.

It’s as if some nation states put their heads together and experienced an “Ahaa” moment when all their command and control visions were suddenly realized. If this is the final outcome of the creation of Bitcoin: a surveillance coin that is able to track all of your financial transactions, and prosecute you for it, then it is a sad state of affairs indeed.

Social Credit Score

Under the guise of tackling crime, China has introduced something called a Social Credit Score:

The Chinese Communist Party intends the social credit score system to “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

Generally, higher credit scores give people a variety of advantages. Individuals are often given perks such as discounted energy bills and access or better visibility on dating websites. Often, those with higher social credit scores are able to forgo deposits on rental properties, bicycles, and umbrellas. They can even get better travel deals. In addition, Chinese hospitals are currently experimenting with social credit scores. A social credit score above 650 at one hospital allows an individual to see a doctor without lining up to pay. ~Forbes

With a completely digital currency, paired with a social scoring system, it’s not a stretch to imagine a Chinese national tagging a photo of the protests in Hong Kong with a #noextraditiontochina hashtag finding themselves suddenly with no funds in the bank, access cut off, prison no longer necessary, yet probable.

Social engineering with an Orwellian twist.

And if you think a Facebook coin will only increase advertisements in your feed without a similar social engineering effect, well, you probably don’t keep up with the news:

Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. The firm offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.. ~NYT, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: What You Need to Know as Fallout Widens

Right now, Facebook is being accused of Commercial Surveillance, yet no doubt they are just a Federal subpoena away from giving up their users online behaviors.

“Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users’ location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls,” one court document says. ~ The Guardian

The US Department of Homeland Security has already readied plans to create fake profiles on Facebook in order “to monitor the social media of foreigners seeking to enter the country.”

A 2nd US agency, the “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had authorized its officers to use fake social media accounts in a reversal of a previous ban on the practice.”

Facebook and Twitter both have objected to the practice, but the US agencies move ahead with their plans despite the social media companies objections.

The arguments of governments is that surveillance is in exchange or a social good: fighting crime, restricting the freedoms and rights of those deemed unworthy. In exchange, if you kowtow to the rules and restrictions of the governing state then the carrot portion of the ‘carrot and stick’ paradigm become apparent: no deposit for rent, freedom of travel, better dating opportunities, etc.

It’s a Faustian bargain.

“Protest our extradition policies,” I can imagine someone from the Chinese politburo ominously declaring, “- and we’ll take appropriate actions.” — Such as destroying you financially.

It’s one of the many reasons Decentralization matters for Bitcoin. Freedom, to think, to do, to believe.

To guard the ability to protest extradition to a Communist country without consequences to one’s manufactured “Social Credit Score” is an example. To live with Privacy as a constitutional right is another.

The right to privacy refers to the concept that one’s personal information is protected from public scrutiny. U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis called it “the right to be left alone.”

Unfortunately, not all nations recognize this most basic of human rights. And while CBDC can conceivably be used to pair China’s Social Credit Score with their citizen’s buying and spending decisions, and Libra “only” with commercial surveillance, the difference lies only in degree, not in substance.


Articles on Cryptocurrencies


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Articles on Cryptocurrencies

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