If you were given a bag of cryptocurrency assets, what would it include?
Many would probably say coins that have the ability to cut the middle man out and use direct peer-to-peer (P2P) payments. That is the main point, but there is another one that is just as important … PRIVACY.
The right to spend your money the way you choose without being asked questions. How you spend your money is your right, and no one can decide what you can and cannot use it for. This is not to encourage illicit activity, which is usually the message regulators get. Instead it is about protecting a citizen’s right to privacy. Why should anyone track what a person buys? Should the government know who you donate your money to? If for example the current administration in your country is against the political ideology of the person you donate money to, they could use that information to cut you off. Another example which many would want to consider private is the purchase of adult content. Now there is a legitimate reason to go after criminal activities, but for non-illegal transactions that deserve the right to be anonymous should be allowed.
The type of cryptocurrency that should be in that bag of assets should include Privacy Coins. These provide a layer of protection for users to confidentiality and anonymity in their transactions. Someone can use these tokens to spend their money on things that they would otherwise be embarrassed to disclose. I won’t get into details, but people should be able to use digital payment systems that are like cash in the real world. It is what financial freedom should be all about.
When you use cash, it is a final transaction. There is no ledger that tracks what you spent your money on. It is the most anonymous and private way to transact. This is not how it is like with digital electronic payments today, even with most cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Visa and Mastercard, both debit and credit, keep records of your transactions in a database. This is necessary for accounting, but it also reveals what you spent your money on. Bitcoin is not fully anonymous, it is pseudonymous. It is still possible to track a person down to the digital exchange where they convert BTC for fiat currency. Bitcoin provides plenty of transparency, and that is important for certain transactions.
Privacy Coins can provide anonymity using techniques that obfuscate transactions. They can also hide the user’s identity in a transaction. This is referred to as a double blind, in which the system does not know what you spent your money on and anyone outside the system as well. Only you and the other party you dealt with will have knowledge of the transaction. It can also be triple blind, in which case no one will know your identity, even the person you transacted with. Only you know about the transaction. This does pose a problem to regulators who want to be able to track down transactions or the movement of money. This is to check for AML (Anti-Money Laundering) purposes for financial rules and regulations in the banking and finance industry.
This is not to say that everyone will use Privacy Coins for purposes of laundering money, but the question is why do those laws exist in the first place? They are jurisdiction mandated to control the flow of money outside of the country. It is in fact necessary to keep track of the flow of money to prevent funding of terrorism and illegal financing. Privacy Coins can circumvent these laws, so it is not popular with regulators.
Monero (XMR), Dash (DASH) and ZCash (ZeC) are three of the top Privacy Coins. Each one has its main feature that provides privacy for its users. Monero provides untraceable source and destination of transactions using the CryptoNight PoW protocol. Dash uses PrivateSend, which mixes up data in a transaction to hide it from prying eyes. ZCash uses its Zero Knowledge Proof technique called Zk-SNARKS (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) which does not reveal the information in a transaction.
Privacy features are also being incorporated into other blockchain projects using cryptocurrency. It is becoming an important consideration despite the legal hurdles they could face. Privacy focused projects have significance when it comes to protecting identity and anonymity in transactions. Whether or not that is allowed is a subjective question depending on which perspective you are looking at it from. For the individual citizen it is a right to be able to choose how you spend your money, and Privacy Coins offer a way to do so without being tracked.
For regulators, it is not a good look because of the potential to provide criminals with a way to hide their illicit activities. This will certainly not be allowed in restrictive governments that are highly centralized, but it could find some leeway in less restrictive governments. In the US constitution there is an amendment that guarantees privacy, but under the rule of law:
“No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law.” – Liberty Clause of the 14th Amendment
As technology evolves, so to will the interpretation of due process since there is no specific law that guarantees the right to an individual’s privacy with their money. The best way to do this is for regulators to come up with a list of what are transactions that can be permitted for privacy (e.g. novelty items, direct P2P sales, etc.) and which ones certainly need to be regulated (e.g. cross border money transfers). Ultimately it will be decided by the courts. Banning them however will not be easy due to their decentralized nature, and that could be what keep Privacy Coins alive.