Privacy for Everyone (pt 2)
Tari Protocol Community Update - March 25th, 2020
We live in an unpredictable and profoundly challenging time. Everywhere we turn, there is uncertainty. We are uncertain about our health, our basic needs, and our safety. As the world shifts into ever higher gear to address the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments are turning to surveillance programs to track the spread of the virus better. On the one hand, this is a positive development, anything that helps healthcare professionals to save more lives, the better.
But at what cost? There is a severe problem with how governments are planning on employing surveillance technologies to combat this pandemic. They aren’t thinking about personal privacy. Once enacted, surveillance programs tend to stay in place. Our experience with the Patriot Act is a cautionary tale. The depth and breadth of the law is stunning, and the impact it has had on US society has rocked the foundation of the social contract that exists between the US government and its constituents. From the hundreds of thousands of NSLs issued by the FBI to unwarranted sneak and peek searches, this one law has dramatically reduced the safety, security, privacy, and ultimately freedom of US citizens with marginal benefit. What was considered short term aid during a time of crisis is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Let’s not make the same mistake now.
Concerning our current global catastrophe, there appears to be a more privacy forward solution for tracking the spread of COVID-19 called Safe Paths. Developed by researchers at Harvard and MIT, Safe Paths purports to enable users to determine if they have crossed paths with a COVID-19 carrier without de-anonymizing either the carrier or themselves. And for carriers, they can privately share their location data with health care professionals to influence their response to a local manifestation of the pandemic.
Will Safe Paths take off? One certainly hopes for something more privacy forward like it will. Unfortunately, the track record for governments worldwide isn’t good. In our view, the only way for privacy-enhancing technologies to take off is if the intended user of the technology has meaningful societal and legislative influence and absolute privacy to conduct their affairs.
In the case of the Tari protocol project, this is why the primary target audience currently being considered is digital asset issuers. They tend to require privacy by default to ensure that their transactions aren’t surveilled by competitors, and if they are public companies, that they aren’t breaching securities disclosure laws. To be clear, the Tari protocol is in development and therefore doesn’t yet exist. And this is simply a point of view some members of the Tari community have with regards to answering the following question: How do privacy-enhancing technologies like Monero and Tari become mainstream?
What do you think? Does this idea make sense to you? We would love to hear your thoughts anytime on Reddit, Telegram, or #tari-dev on freenode IRC. Furthermore, members of the Tari Labs team and folks from the Tari community have discussed participating in a focused session on Reddit to debate this question on Friday, March 27th 14:30 UTC (7:30 PDT, 10:30 EDT, 16:30 SAST, 17:30 CEST) on r/Tari. We hope to see you there.
PS: If you missed last week’s discussion on telegram / IRC, please check out the log here.
Other ways to get involved and keep your ear to the ground: