Can COVID-19 Take Away the Privacy Promised by Blockchain Technology?
By Marko Vidrih on The Capital
Blockchain technology has enormous potential and may even become key to the new data-driven industrial revolution. With the help of the blockchain, we can solve many social, financial and administrative problems.
However, now it seems that we also have great chances to face “blockchain socialism”.
Is it possible that this new technology will take away from us those freedoms that it itself promises — confidentiality and anonymity? With the COVID-19 pandemic, this issue becomes very relevant. A flu-like illness is spreading all over the world, and technology is increasingly being used to mass-track patients, monitor public health, and more. Under the guise of monitoring and tracking viral epidemics, authorities should use tools that also violate your privacy. Probably, events in the world can follow the scenario of blockchain socialism.
Are We Ready for This?
Do we live in a world where all the conversations of a person, his interaction with other people and other actions are carefully studied, recorded and observed? The answer is yes.
Can the current tragic situation lead to the creation of a “social credit system”, where citizens will be evaluated for compliance with regulatory requirements? The answer is yes, as many countries already use similar technologies.
At the peak of the coronavirus, China used surveillance mechanisms and now even boasts of it. Their algorithms helped identify citizens, track them and evaluate existing/emerging risks for the sake of human health. China is a record country for investments in blockchain technology. Many famous cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects have Chinese roots.
Thus, we are faced with a situation where the blockchain technology, which promised to protect our anonymity and confidentiality, is used to create a despotic system of social observation. A decentralized digital system can help manage society, but the authoritarian government can also have tools for centralized control of the masses.
COVID-19 Accelerates the Trend
Governments around the world pay a lot of attention to COVID-19. In many places, curfews or forced protection of people from mutual physical contact are practiced. Governments actually have an excuse — they are taking measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.
One surefire way to stop the spread of the disease is through social distance. Such methods may well serve medical purposes if implemented ethically.
However, it may be shocking that governments enforce rules that violate privacy. Virus panic is spreading over the population, and authorities are introducing draconian tracking and surveillance systems. Technology companies are involved in tracking people’s location and ensuring social distance. The media seems to have less freedom now to cover the situation.
The virus gives governments an unlimited right to violate the rights of citizens, and civil liberties can be turned upside down. Governments can now record your health, location, and even your conversations. Western democracies, nurturing the ideals of freedom and privacy, are now forced to fall in love with the Chinese model; and the seeds of blockchain socialism seem to have already been sown.
Forgotten Lessons of 2008
The financial crash of 2008 exposed the precarious nature of a centrally controlled monetary system. Then people realized that governments did not control the situation, and the “faultless” economic model showed its vulnerability. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies emerged from the ashes of the “great recession” of 2008. They demonstrated instruments of financial independence and decentralized systems over which governments are not in control.
What was an elixir yesterday quickly became poison in the hands of the authorities. Today, blockchain technology helps create solutions for authoritarian governments. This has already happened, and the COVID-19 virus has accelerated this trend.
Yesterday a beacon of hope, and today are the shackles? Current systems that use draconian blockchain socialism do not really adhere to anything “socialist”. Socialism has certain positive aspects that benefit people. But the new blockchain mechanisms serve only one purpose — to ensure the submission of citizens.
Also in the near future, blockchain can be used to improve the social credit system. The system will be able to store citizens' data. And when all this turns into a mixture of observing drones, AI and face recognition systems, the result can completely destroy the privacy of people.
However, there are also people in the world who seek to make blockchain technology work for the benefit of mankind. As long as there are heroes who create cryptocurrencies and wallets, trying to ensure the privacy of people, the blockchain will also be able to remain true to its fundamental values of freedom and privacy.
Author: Marko Vidrih
Featured image credit: Pixabay