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Monetary Privacy!?

“Preventing money laundering” is another way to say our financial system puts a huge amount of effort into preventing monetary privacy.

This is widely seen as obviously good. It's not. It has some apparent upsides and downsides. It violates a major principle, so it's presumably actually bad. It being bad doesn't mean we should get rid of it overnight; we have to figure out good ways to transition our system and alternative ways to solve the genuine problems that anti-money-laundering currently addresses.

The basic underlying tensions here is: privacy is helpful to criminals. But privacy is also great for non-criminals! And I don't think a trusted central authority knowing everything about everyone is the right way to handle crime, because the government can't be trusted that much and because there needs to be market competition in order to fight crime better.

I think it'd be best to stop blaming tools of crime which are also tools of non-crime – such as money and guns – and go after criminals more directly without causing a lot of collateral damage for the rest of society.


Elliot Temple on February 13, 2018

Comments (12)

fighting crime

Yes, more privacy for all would be great.

Can you explain about how market competition helps to fight crime?


anonymous at 5:26 AM on February 14, 2018 | #9519 | reply | quote

if a company has to outcompete another company for customers, they do a better job.


Anonymous at 11:31 AM on February 14, 2018 | #9520 | reply | quote

And if that company's product is fighting crime, they need to be better at fighting crime to survive. Having one institution means no competition, and less incentive (or evolutionary force) to be better at fighting crime.


Anonymous at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2018 | #9607 | reply | quote

Bitcoin and others have not attempted to solve the problem of monetary privacy *while also addressing the way privacy facilitates some bad things, especially crime*. They don't seem to care that they are used in crime.


Anonymous at 2:23 AM on March 7, 2018 | #9681 | reply | quote

bitcoin should fund healthcare for the poor


Gomy at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2018 | #9682 | reply | quote

> Bitcoin and others have not attempted to solve the problem of monetary privacy *while also addressing the way privacy facilitates some bad things, especially crime*. They don't seem to care that they are used in crime.

Where / who did you check with on that?


Anon69 at 6:25 PM on March 8, 2018 | #9684 | reply | quote

> Where / who did you check with on that?

Public information. Did you have a counter example that you decided to withhold so far while implying I'm wrong?


Anonymous at 9:49 PM on March 8, 2018 | #9685 | reply | quote

Not implying you're wrong, I'm not familiar with the issue.

Just thought I'd check because it's common for ppl to make this sort of claim without looking much.

Also, my impression is that the crypto/blockchain community is rather large and spread out from what I know. There's also the investor faction which isn't concerned about anything other than making money (doubt you'd find much there).

I remember reading some discussion on the topic years ago, but my memory is fuzzy...


Anon69 at 5:47 AM on March 9, 2018 | #9686 | reply | quote

The basic form of argument I remember hearing for why cryptocurrency is good despite enabling some crimes is that [list of benefits] > [list of downsides] (those lists seem to be complex and evolving). Not a great argument since it's hard to quantify/measure/compare.

Some benefits that come to mind:

-Enables privacy (good in principle). So does traditional cash, although crypto helps where geography and national borders get in the way.

-Enables transactions that *should* be legal but that aren’t, e.g. allows someone in Iran or China anonymously buy a VPN to get around govt internet restrictions.

-Option to use currencies with a value not tied to govt, which can reduce exposure to bad policy, corruption, hyper inflation, etc

-Blockchain-based digital identity (self sovereign identity, reputation systems, etc) has the potential to improve the ability to know-your-customer, avoid unknowingly supporting criminals

-Crypto may offer new ways to track/audit money, e.g. if govt knows public addresses for a business entity, they can track balances and movement of money, check against financial statements, etc

Haven't thought much about these issues but interested to learn more.


Anon69 at 1:32 PM on March 10, 2018 | #9690 | reply | quote

> -Enables privacy

bitcoin is sorta bad at privacy. it records transactions in the public blockchain.

> -Option to use currencies with a value not tied to govt, which can reduce exposure to bad policy, corruption, hyper inflation, etc

except that every crypto company is much worse at those things than USD.

> The basic form of argument I remember hearing for why cryptocurrency is good despite enabling some crimes is that [list of benefits] > [list of downsides] (those lists seem to be complex and evolving).

in other words they don't care about facilitating crime, they just care about the perceived upsides.


Anonymous at 1:40 PM on March 10, 2018 | #9691 | reply | quote

> bitcoin is sorta bad at privacy. it records transactions in the public blockchain.

True. If someone can connect your public key to you then they can look up all your transactions. For cryptos with this issue, mixers / tumblers try to help with this.

Monero and zcash are better w/ privacy.

> in other words they don't care about facilitating crime, they just care about the perceived upsides.

If someone is making a [list of benefits] > [list of downsides] type argument, they aren't ignoring or not caring about the downsides, they are claiming the upsides make up for them. So I don't see how not-caring is an accurate picture.

That being said, indeed there are countless people in crypto who in fact don't care about it facilitating crime.


Anon69 at 1:56 PM on March 10, 2018 | #9692 | reply | quote

> If someone is making a [list of benefits] > [list of downsides] type argument, they aren't ignoring or not caring about the downsides,

that style of argument involves NOT addressing the downsides and solving the problems, just vaguely claiming they are outweighed. it's bad epistemology and one of the key features is selective attention and non-addressing of stuff.


Anonymous at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2018 | #9693 | reply | quote

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)