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UPA Celebrates Global Encryption Day: Twitter Space Recap

The Universal Privacy Alliance held its first Twitter space last Friday to celebrate privacy’s favorite day of the year. If you are unfamiliar with the UPA, check out https://privacy-alliance.info/ or watch our launch announcement with Edward Snowden at ZKHouse Bogota.

The Recording

You can listen to the full recording here:

TL;DR

  • The space, hosted by yours truly (Manta Network!), had speakers from Nym, Secret Network, Electric Coin Co, and Orchid Protocol on the call. We all discussed the importance of the privacy battle today, and who inspires us the most.

Participants

  • Jess, Product @ Nym (@Nargool)
  • Travis, Product @ Orchid Protocol
  • Ahmed, Legal @ Nym (@ghappour)
  • TorBair, Founder @ Secret Network (@torbair)
  • Josh, SVP of Growth @ Eclectic Coin Co (@jswihart)

Moderator

  • Kenny, cofounder of p0xeidon labs + Manta Network (@superanonymousk)

Question 1

Where do you guys find your inspiration, whether you know, cryptographers or cypherpunks or projects that you’ve seen?

When asked about these privacy veterans’ biggest inspirations in the privacy space, surprisingly nobody brought up names. They talked about movements, peoples, and everyday humans pushing the boundaries for human autonomy.

Travis from Orchid mentioned the people of Iran, who are currently experiencing one of the worst-case scenarios in government suppression, and the resilience of many of the people for setting up private, p2p networks to communicate to each other, resist, and get information out to the work.

There were also mentions of Syria, Egypt, and South American Indengious communities: places and peoples that are experiencing oppression are innovating and stress testing privacy communication. These people and movements push us building on the technical side today to continue building.

Jess: People think you don’t have to care for privacy until you have something to hide, which is a very wrong way of looking at this thing because things can go wrong very quickly and very fast. And when they do, you sometimes find yourself in situations where you don’t have any tools to protect yourself.

Many of the applications we use today, if brought to the control of the government, could have detrimental effects on resistance movements.

Jess: A good example of this is also like, I go back to Iran because I know people that this has happened to, that the tools that they were using on a daily basis suddenly can take a turn against them and become very evil things; so I know people who like using this application called SNAP which is equivalent to Uber eats that we have here.

When some of them were in the protest, their faces were recognized by the CCTV’s there. There was footage of them and then they used image recognition. They figured out who they were and then they went to their house, the flatmates opened the door and told the police that no, we don’t know where our friend is. He hasn’t been here for a while. And then the police say, Oh well you’re full of shit, you’re lying. He used SNAP and ordered food last night here.”

Question 2

What has gone wrong with centralized privacy narratives and centralized applications? How do they approach privacy and what is our response to that and web3?

Tor: Web 3 purported to fix this by saying, oh, it’s all trustless now. But they didn’t really fix the privacy issue. Maybe they were trying to solve this trustless or permissionless issue, but they didn’t solve the privacy issue at all. In fact, it made it probably 1000 times worse. And now what we’re left with is a bunch of radically transparent, public, by default systems in web 3.

Web 3 has revolutionized many aspects of web 2, but privacy is something that needs to be built from the ground up. There is fantastic infrastructure to do so, but if there are no privacy builders, blockchain can very quickly become a surveillance nightmare. An example horror story of this is CBDCs.

Late-stage web 2 models feed off of surveillance capitalism, something that can very well shift into web 3. But one good thing about web 3 is the incentive models: they’ve shifted, and web 2 implementation strategies just won’t work:

From @shoshanazuboff’s book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”

Travis: I feel like A huge part of the problem has been what you might call surveillance capitalism, right? Where the profit model turns on exploiting data. And of course, in conjunction with laws that are designed for a non-digital networked world, there’s this huge burgeoning sort of data collection phenomenon. And then because of surveillance capitalism, because of advertising revenue etc, we got better at managing the data. We got better at processing the data. So in many ways, that’s a good thing, right, in terms of the innovations, but I think one of the things that Web3 does (or at least the companies in this chat do) is sort of relying on an alternative system for incentivizing the service. Like I don’t think any of us actually intend to incentivize either the nodes in our networks or any sort of the actors that make our systems go with data. And so that model alone I think is quite revolutionary and that is I think one of the big innovations of web 3.

Question 3

(Towards Ahmed) I definitely want to get more perspective from the legal side of Tornado Cash. I mean I feel like OFAC has definitely moved fast and broke some things with the recent Tornado Cash sanctions and I wanted to hear from you: where is all this headed?

Ahmed: The fact that OFAC designated an entity or called an entity or defined it as an entity something that is just a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain is hugely problematic. It has attracted attention beyond web three in terms of the 1st amendment implications, and the freedom of speech implications. Obviously, they’re tied to the First Amendment as well as just the authority of OFAC to designate software.

The conversation then went into the idea of forking the Tornado Cash to create “2nado Cash.” What would happen then? Would OFAC need to sanction every Tornado Cash fork? The Pirate Bay, as you may know, has been proven difficult to take down because of web 2 “mirroring” of websites. It would be very interesting to see what happens here.

Ahmed: At that point, I don’t see any immediate justification for OFAC to designate them, especially given their justification for designating tornado cache.

I think you would have to wait for the same thing to happen again. Then the case could be made that OFAC can designate any piece of software based on its intended, no, not even its intended functionality, based on its potential functionality before it’s even been used by anybody, right? So that would be kind of, well, significantly worse than what’s already happened.

Follow @priv_alliance on Twitter to tune into more privacy podcasts, events, and twitter spaces.

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