Yesterday I brought up what I think is the most important challenge facing freedom-loving people today.
The fight to retain the right to a private life in the face of amazing technological advancements.
And a drive from powerful people to use this new tech for their own nefarious ends.
I think if we lose this battle, the future will be a darker place.
A more corrupt and manipulated place where control over data will be used as a weapon on many levels.
That’s not good for you as an investor and/or as a citizen.
As you probably worked out, I don’t have much faith in governments to help us out here.
In fact, it appears they’re eagerly trying to utilise this power for their own goals.
It’s a dangerous and worrying sign that too many people are ignoring.
So if not government, who will help us?
There’s a few encouraging signs…
Big tech is not all bad
In Hong Kong right now, we’re seeing the tech battle play out in real time between authorities and protestors.
And the privacy enhancing features behind some big name tech products is becoming clear.
From The New York Times:
‘HONG KONG — The police officers wrestled with Colin Cheung in an unmarked car. They needed his face.
‘They grabbed his jaw to force his head in front of his iPhone. They slapped his face. They shouted, “Wake up!” They pried open his eyes. It all failed: Mr. Cheung had disabled his phone’s facial-recognition login with a quick button mash as soon as they grabbed him.’
You see, Apple phones have a ‘cop mode’ button which disables facial ID log in!
It also automatically calls an emergency number as well, which was its original purpose.
But a side benefit is that it’s stopping people from forcefully opening your phone and searching through its contents.
When you’ve got a situation like you do in Hong Kong, you can clearly see the good such features do.
They’re protectors of our democratic ideals.
Without it, authoritarian governments could forcefully invade your life and put people you know at risk.
But such features draw criticism from authorities, too.
There was a case in 2016 where the FBI tried to make Apple unlock a dead suspect’s phone.
Apple took the case to court, saying that they couldn’t unlock it due to strong encryption technology. And they wouldn’t build software to allow such a backdoor.
The FBI eventually withdrew the case, saying they’d found ‘another’ way in.
It brings up the point…
Tech is neither good nor evil
As you can see, as with most things, tech can be used for good and evil.
It’s people that decide how they’re going to use them. And you get bad people and good people. You always will.
There is a balancing act to be found in this new world of tech.
But we can’t let governments use the worst-case examples to strip us of our rights. As I said yesterday, we can’t all be presumed guilty until proven innocent.
Some people will always say ‘if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear’, but that is a disingenuous argument.
I’ll show you why very quickly…
Let’s say the government announced that everyone will have a microchip implanted in them that tracks everything they do.
Where you go, what you say, who you say it to…
That way if a crime is committed, everyone could be traced and every action scrutinised to find the guilty party.
Would you accept such a thing?
Of course not!
Straight away, you know that’s not right. Even as a law abiding, honest citizen, you don’t want someone watching your every move.
There’s the question of who polices the police to start off with?
Then who are exempt from this world of surveillance and why?
In such a world, you’ll create tiers of power based on levels of surveillance. Privacy will be a coveted asset held by the powerful.
It’s time to become a cypher punk
Apple is not the only company battling with the government for your rights.
And I fear such organisations can eventually be pressured to give way to governments demands.
But the fight has been taken up by a new generation.
The cypher punk movement, which spawned the world of cryptocurrencies, is creating amazing new tools of privacy, especially in the online world.
Unlike anything else before it, it’s a decentralised network of developers and liberty minded people all working to achieve the goal of self-sovereignty.
And they’re developing the tech to do it.
It’ll mean new untraceable money, private ownership of your own data and new forms of human co-operation with new economic incentives.
And unlike Apple, because it’s decentralised there is no one for the FBI to take to court. There is no CEO to prosecute.
And therefore, no way to shut it down.
The point I want you to understand today is this…
Cryptocurrencies are more than digital money. They’re more than a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.
They’re actually an entirely new ethos on privacy and liberty.
And they could be essential tools you’ll need one day.
Editor, Money Morning
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