Uber For Hit Men, Kidnappers, and Child Molesters Is Coming. Buckle Up!

Advantages Of The Sharing Economy Business Model

The “Sharing Economy” business model has many advantages:

  • It cuts costs
  • It reduces “friction” between buyer and seller
  • It removed bottlenecks and gatekeepers

Reduced to its most fundamental elements, the Sharing Economy business model is:

  • an app that connects
  • any buyer of any goods or services with
  • any seller of any goods or services and
  • facilitates the buyer paying the seller for providing the desired goods or services.

Any goods. Any services.

The Sharing Economy Business Model Can Also Cause Vast Harm

The addition of the element of anonymity to the Sharing Economy business model is where the whole thing goes from a benefit to a disaster.

Let me explain.

There’s now an app called Ohlala that allows men to hire women. The men post an offer to buy so many hours of a woman’s time for so many dollars. The women using the app respond to the post and offer to provide the requested service for the offered price. The customer reviews the responses, picks one, and sets up the “date.”

You can call them companions, escorts, call girls or prostitutes depending on the services requested and rendered. That’s not the point. The point is that the app facilitates the anonymous purchase of sexual services by a community of secret buyers from a community of secret sellers.

“What’s the big deal?” you ask. “Isn’t it a good thing to take the pimps out of the prostitution equation and let the free market do its work? Willing John, willing hooker. Sex for money. So what?”

You’re missing the point. When the Sharing Economy business model adds the additional element of permanent anonymity, the community of buyers and the universe of services vastly and dangerously expands.

A Sharing Economy App For Pedophiles

Let’s say I create an app that I call “Playtime.” I host it on servers physically located in Somalia or Belarus or Kazakhstan. Of course, it uses end-to-end encryption and supports anonymous payment.

Pedophiles buy burner phones, download the app, and then post their requests: “I’ll pay $1,500 for three hours with a nine-year-old girl in Boston.”

People with no conscience and young children download the app. They see the post and offer to supply their child to the pedophile.

Or maybe a bunch of low-life criminals see the post and they kidnap a child to fill the pedophile’s order.

The people running the app handle the payment in digital currency. When the transaction is complete both parties destroy their SIM cards and get new phones.

Are you starting to get it? It’s the permanent anonymity of the buyers and the sellers that mutates the beneficial Sharing Economy business model into a harmful one.

Legitimate Sharing Businesses Can Be Both Secure And Safe

It doesn’t have to be that way. A legitimate sharing economy app can include end-to-end strong encryption and still avoid facilitating criminal activity.

A legitimate app provider can maintain an air-gapped secure registry of its users private encryption keys. This will keep the users encrypted communications secure from hacking by “bad guys” while still making their identity and sale data later available to law enforcement upon service of a valid search warrant.

Legitimate users are protected and, knowing they can be identified, criminals are deterred.

The Problem Is With Apps Specifically Designed To Provide Illegal Services

The problem is that the person who wants to be in the business of providing children or child pornography, hit men or leg breakers, stolen merchandise or nerve gas will organize his site and locate his servers in ways designed to defeat any attempt by law enforcement to obtain the true identities of the buyers and sellers.

When you add the element of total, permanent anonymity of buyers and sellers you turn a useful business model that offers the promise of great benefits into one that instead delivers great harm.

Hit Men For Hire

Suppose I want someone dead. Maybe my spouse, a judge, a prosecutor, my business partner, my boss. It doesn’t matter.

I post an offer on the app, Discreet Removals:

“Removal needed in Denver. $10,000. Interested contractors please reply.”

I never meet the “contractor” and he/she never meets me. The app operator in Somalia escrows the bitcoins and transfers them to the killer’s account in another country when the target is dead.

Extortion

You’re familiar with “ransomware” for your computer. How about “deathware” for yourself or your family?

I send you an email: “Send $10,000 to this account number within five days or I’ll hire a contractor to kill one of your children.”

If you don’t pay then I’ll post a contract on the Discreet Removals app for someone to kill one of your children.

Of course, I’ll make sure that the media reports my blackmail demand, your refusal to pay, and the fact that your child is now dead. That way, my next blackmail victim will know that they’d better pay up.

The police won’t be able to trace me or follow the money. They won’t be able to connect me with the killer I hire. Even if they stop the killer that won’t help them because he won’t know my identity. And if the first killer fails, well, I’ll just hire another one. If at first you don’t succeed. . . .

And we haven’t even touched on using these apps to buy drugs, guns, explosives, child pornography, and pathogens. Would you like some anthrax or sarin gas? Who cares what you plan to do with it.

Property crimes? Forget about it. Instead of buying a used car, I can just post an offer: “In San Jose. I’m willing to pay $3,000 for two-year-old or newer BMW three series with papers.”

Mr. Car Thief reads my offer, steals a 328i, runs off a forged pink slip and arranges to leave the car at a designated location. Yes, the exchange of the money for the keys might be a little tricky, but it’s certainly doable. Why buy a legitimate car for $15,000 when you can have someone custom steal one for you for $3,000?

Lowering The Barrier To Violence

Central to the vast damage the anonymous Uber criminal business model will inflict is its ease of use.

Today, if my boss pisses me off I might fantasize about punching him in the nose but I’m not actually going to do it.

But what if I could buy a $10 burner phone, download the Leg Breaker app, and type up the offer: “I’ll pay $500 to have a leg broken in Miami”?

Simple, easy, and relatively cheap. Instant violence. Instant gratification. Instant revenge.

I just type a text message into an app, electronically transfer some bitcoins, and violence that can’t be traced back to me gets done.

When it’s that easy, how many angry people will use it?

It will become commonplace. Habitual. Almost automatic.

The answer is: Millions.

Hired Violence Becomes An Everyday Thing

Your neighbor’s mad at you because you play your music too loud. He can just hire someone to slash your tires.

You don’t like cops? Hire someone to kill one.

Your husband is cheating on you? Hire someone to break his legs, or kill him, or kill the other woman.

Your girlfriend dumped you? Hire someone to throw acid in her face.

Life In A Society Where A Leg Breaker Is Only A Text Message Away

You’ll get up every day not knowing if someone will blackmail you. You’ll be terrified about upsetting anyone because if you do, they can do anything, hire someone to kill you, kidnap your kids, burn down your house, and short of having twenty-four-hour armed bodyguards you will always be at risk.

Anarchist Heaven

If you’re an anarchist you think this is great.

Anyone can do anything they want and it’s totally up to the victim to either protect themselves or hire a private police force to protect them.

If you’re not Rambo and you don’t have the money to hire private guards, then you’re prey.

It’s a dog-eat-dog, cannibal world where anyone can arrange for anything to happen to anyone at any time. It’s the law of the jungle enabled by twenty-first century technology.

Anarchism in its purest form.

But ask yourself: Are the people who live in that society actually free?

The Pieces Are Already In Place

All the pieces of this business model are already here:

1) The structure of a sharing economy app is well known. Uber, Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Ohlala — all have answered the structural questions about how these apps can be built.

2) End-to-end encryption is available

3) Anonymous payments can be implemented using a digital currency system

4) TOR together with throw-away phones will anonomize the transaction

5) Off-shore servers will insulate the sites from physical seizure.

People willing to pervert the Sharing Economy business model to facilitate crime and violence will do it because it will make them money and because they can.

Are We At The End Of A “Golden Age”?

Today, many people look back on the 1950s and 1960s and think of them as a golden age.

Back then you could just walk into an airport and get on a plane. Private citizens who wanted to kill as many random people as possible didn’t have assault rifles with fifty-shot magazines. The phone system, banks, and power grids weren’t threatened with malicious attacks. We didn’t have vicious killers running around trying blow up airports full of people.

No one back in 1958 would have believed the massacres we take for granted today. They would have labeled accounts of Orlando or New Town as wild delusions of a twisted mind. Impossible. Unthinkable.

But now they’re commonplace.

A decade from now will the years 2000 to 2015 be seen as a golden age where people didn’t have to worry about faceless, for-hire killers, leg-breakers, and blackmailers checking their apps every morning, looking for their next assignment?

Total Anonymity Allows Total Crime

Do you think all communications should be permanently and forever anonymous, all speech permanently and forever anonymous, and all financial transactions permanently and forever totally secret?

If that sounds great to you, just wait until you get your first email: “Send money or I’ll kill your child” and the cops tell you, “Sorry, we can’t trace the email. We can’t follow the money. We can’t protect you. You’re on your own.”

If you think you want a world where you can secretly do whatever you want and no one can ever find out, well, that sword cuts both ways.

In that world other people will be able to secretly do whatever they want to you and you won’t ever be able to stop them.

Is that still the world you want to live in?

–David Grace
www.DavidGraceAuthor.com

To see a searchable list of all David Grace’s columns in chronological order, CLICK HERE

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Technology, Taxes, Education & Medium Columns By David Grace

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David Grace

David Grace

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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