This post originally appeared on ZeMing M. Gao’s website and we’ve republished it with permission from the author. Read the full piece here.
In the world of blockchain and digital currencies, there is a battle over the distinction between anonymity And privacy. Even some of the most eloquent people struggle and stumble trying to explain these concepts.
The struggle is due to a misunderstanding of the concepts and reality.
Of course, one can make a distinction based on the literal meaning of the words. For example, one can emphasize that anonymity covers identitywhile privacy covers actions, events and relationshipsetc.
But such an academic distinction is not at all instructive in the context of blockchain and digital currencies.
The truth is that in a hypothetical society that has no form of government but only individuals communicating with each other, anonymity and privacy are essentially the same, as both are drawn to the same concept of not being known by others. .
But in reality, we live in a structured society made up of the government, individuals and various authorized parties as agents. For this reason, anonymity and privacy should be used to describe different types of of ‘knowing’ or ‘being known’.
In concrete terms, a good distinction between privacy and anonymity should make it an issue WHO may know What below what circumstanceAnd How the one who knows is authorized to do so act. The difference is qualitative, not just a matter of degrees.
In this context, we explain “Privacy” and “Anonymity” as follows:
“Privacymeans that the general public is not supposed to know, nor has the right to know, while the government may only have the right to know if there is possible cause.
“Anonymitymeans it is intentionally and completely hidden, made to be physically unknowable even by the government with a possible cause.
Privacy and anonymity are not mutually exclusive, but rather overlap. But they are different.
Privacy is a legitimate outcome of legal, social and political negotiation.
Anonymity, on the other hand, is a unilateral decision to deliberately conceal identity, often for the specific purpose of evading law enforcement. Anonymity is not always illegal, but it often is, especially in matters related to money and finance.
In the above distinction, “possible causeis also a key, next to government versus public.
“Probable cause” is part of “due process”, one of the most important legal concepts in modern legal systems. The concept only exists in societies that operate under the rule of law.
People today often talk about freedom in abstract terms, forgetting that human societies have always relied on a system called government. Even the Bible says that government is ordained of God (Romans 13:1). Within the government, although the officers can be corrupt because of their personal shamethe office itself as a principle.
Citizens in a democracy can only advocate better government, but not anarchy. Democracy and anarchy are mutually exclusive.
However, societies should avoid a system like the one China has built in recent years, in which the government knows everything standard and without legal, political and social negotiations. There is no “probable cause” requirement in the Chinese system.
In fact, there isn’t even a concept of “probable cause” in the Chinese legal system because it doesn’t have a concept of “due process” in the first place.
It does not mean that Chinese law empowers the government to do anything it wants (an often misunderstood and exaggerated point), as the system has a general concept of “justice”. But it specifically focuses on “substantive justice”, ignores “procedural justice” and has no concept of “due process” or “probable cause” as a formal legal process.
The result is a surveillance society, which has now underlined the debate about privacy in other societies.
Stop eating for fear of choking
In fact, the Chinese system is so intrusive and terrifying that its existence strongly motivates Western societies to go to the other extreme: not allowing the government access to private information, even if there is probable cause.
This is like stopping eating for fear of choking.
In Western societies, bottom-up resistance has mostly acted as a counterbalance to government abuse. But in this particular issue of privacy in the digital age, there is the danger of a choppy response without sufficient understanding of the underlying issues. Misunderstandings and misconceptions lead to wrong decisions and wrong policies.
It’s always a struggle and a balancing act.
Even if government has indeed become largely unreliable, categorically rejecting and opposing law enforcement has not a solution. The only hope of a democratic society is to elect wiser representatives, legislators and officials, who are more trustworthy and capable of changing the system for the better.
But if none of that work out, if a democratic society fails to elect reliable and wiser leaders to form an adequate government (because society doesn’t produce good candidates, or because the voting system is so corrupt that it doesn’t right results, or people themselves are so depraved that they do not discern), then there are few choices left. There are perhaps only two clear choices:
authoritarianism or anarchy.
And history has taught us that authoritarianism is always a better choice than anarchy.
The cold truth: When the values and beliefs of the majority of a society no longer support democracy, or have become unworthy of democracy, then authoritarianism is what it deserves. One just hopes it doesn’t fall into anarchy.
The role of technology
Technology can help, if the right kind of technology prevails.
Blockchain technology can help because it can improve privacy without compromising the rule of law, and increase transparency without sacrificing privacy. But not every blockchain is the same. For example, Bitcoin Core (BTC) pretends to be “anonymous”, when in reality it is not. Not being anonymous is not the problem, not being truthful is. BTC uses such a pretext to maximize its own benefits through an illusory separation from the government and beyond the reach of the law. But in reality, not only is everything BTC traceable, it also lacks privacy. Traceability in itself is not a problem because Bitcoin is intended to comply with the law. However, the false sense of anonymity has led to a system that offers no effective means of enhancing privacy.
To make matters worse, in doing so, BTC has sacrificed utility to create an illusion of anonymity, becoming purely a vehicle of Ponzi-driven speculation.
Others copy BTC’s model or, in fact, anonymize it through illegal means.
In contrast, Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) recognizes the fact that bitcoin is not anonymous when subject to law enforcement from the start, and has therefore developed robust strategies and methodologies to maintain privacy without becoming illegal. An example is the use of hierarchical deterministic wallets to create numerous disposable addresses and make it impossible for unauthorized persons to identify and trace the user, especially those of small payments.
Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) is the real Bitcoin blockchain, truthfully based on Satoshi Nakamoto’s original Bitcoin design. It is the only blockchain that has fair privacy without illegal anonymity.
Read more articles about BSV (as serious technical/economic studies):
Watch: The BSV Global Blockchain Convention panel, The Future of Financial Services on Blockchain: More Efficiency & Inclusion
New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learning more about Bitcoin – as originally conceived by Satoshi Nakamoto – and blockchain.