Edward Snowden: Increasingly Wealthier Bitcoiners Losing Sight of World Beyond Their Cave    

World’s foremost privacy advocate openly worries about the state of development debate surrounding the future of money

World’s foremost privacy advocate openly worries about the state of development debate surrounding the future of money

This week whistleblower and privacy guru Edward Snowden was interviewed by Marta Belcher from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about privacy coins, crypto, NFTs, decentralization, and freedom of the press at the fifth annual Ethereal Virtual Summit (2021).

It’s put on by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin’s company, ConsenSys, and its news media subsidiary, Decrypt. Billed as “two days of candid talks with industry titans and thought leaders from around the world,” guests included Mark Cuban, Vitalik Buterin, Sergey Nazarov, the Winklevoss twins, and even CZ from Binance. 

Snowden’s interview gained the most traction, reaching outside the summit due to his rather pointed criticisms of cryptocurrency’s ongoing inability to solve critical privacy issues. 

Alex Gladstein, CSO of Human Rights Foundation and the Oslo Freedom Forum, highlighted two minutes of the nearly 34 minute interview, where Snowden told Belcher how marquee crypto projects like Bitcoin (BTC) are “really failing, comprehensively, terribly, on the privacy angle.”

His thoughts were similar to those expressed to me during my interview with him last year, where he asked of Bitcoin and enhanced privacy, “What’s taking so long?”

Even rare upgrades to BTC such as Taproot leave Snowden largely cold. He went on to describe the BTC core dev team as “really frustrating” in that they’re not prioritizing transaction privacy in future development. The longer they wait, Snowden told Blecher, the harder that goal will be to eventually achieve. 

Gladstein mentioned in passing he respected Snowden, but characterized the clip with Belcher as “a disaster” and summarized Snowden’s take: “Taproot makes Bitcoin privacy worse. Lightning is ‘shenanigans.’ Attacks core devs. Hypes NFTs + privacy coins (except Monero which he trashes). When SnowdenCoin? Say it ain't so.”

It’s not the first time Snowden bumped heads with Bitcoiners over privacy. In Fall of 2019, for example, as his memoir, Permanent Record, was released, Blockstream’s CSO Samson Mow urged followers not to “throw away money” in purchasing it, calling him “a shitcoin shill” due to the fact Snowden promoted privacy projects such as Zcash over BTC.

This time around, however, Snowden took the opportunity of Gladstein’s calling him out to try and better frame the need for vigorous, open debate within the space. 

“The worst part of cryptocurrency transforming into dragon-level wealth,” Snowden clapped back at Gladstein, “is witnessing good people emotionally devolve into dragons themselves: so intellectually paralyzed by the fear that everyone they see threatens their hoard that they lose sight of the world beyond their cave.”

He scolded Gladstein’s summary for being glib and “profoundly misleading.” Snowden stressed the importance of, even at “the theoretical risk of harming the value of [his own BTC ownership], [the need] to criticize Bitcoin's (and other cryptocurrencies I hold) failings because the public cost of doing otherwise would be orders of magnitude greater than that individual private gain. Moral compass.”

Snowden insisted privacy coins “are great, but they're too small and too easy to smother via regulatory actions like de-listing from exchanges. Only Bitcoin has immunity-via-dominance to delisting. It adopting privacy-by-design instantly normalizes financial privacy. Ultima Ratio Cryptum.”

Goldman Sachs Executed its First Cryptocurrency Trades and Formalized Set-up of its Bitcoin Desk

“In a memo sent to staff on Thursday,” as seen by the Financial Times reporter Eva Szalay, “Rajesh Venkataramani, head of major currencies, informed staff that the bank had ‘successfully executed’ trades of two types of bitcoin-linked derivatives. The bank said on March 1 that it would relaunch its mothballed cryptocurrency trading desk due to growing demand from institutional clients.” Goldman is, of course, a century-and-a-half old US banking institution with access to the ears of every Presidential administration, and about as financially mainstream as is humanly possible. “Looking ahead, as we continue to broaden our market presence, albeit in a measured way, we are selectively onboarding new liquidity providers to help us in expanding our offering,” Goldman’s Venkataramani explained. 

Cryptocurrency Worth More Than All US Dollars in Circulation 

The Wall Street Journal reported by late April of this year cryptocurrencies reached a $2 trillion valuation, about par with all US dollars in circulation. Prices since have gone on to top out at a staggering $2.25 trillion recently, and so it isn’t unrealistic to be soon living in a world where exceeding dollars in circulation becomes the new normal. The frothy monetary macro bubble world governments are encouraging, however, makes the supposed victory for crypto hard to cheer … considering it’s all still measured in filthy fiat.

SushiSwap Returned More Cash to Token Holders Than Amazon

Crypto investment pundit James Wang insisted recently, “Sushiswap has returned more cash to token holders in its one year history than Amazon has returned cash to shareholders in its 27 year history.” It’s another interesting metric comparison, but could be looked at another way entirely. Maybe SushiSwap having to lure-in investors with such offers is due to a lack of ultimate confidence in the product itself -- that’s the way traditional finance might view such a dividend-like take. Amazon has famously never paid dividends, and proponents have often pointed to that very fact as showing the company has faith in driving its share price up rather than cashing out. Still, it’s an interesting point and one the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem will continue to confront. 

Crypto Media Content Grew by 475% Year-Over-Year

Sarah Fischer of Axios Media Trends found crypto-related media is booming. “A slew of new crypto media companies have gained enormous traction over the past year, thanks to the digital currency craze taking over Wall Street,” Fischer explained. Crypto-focused media companies such as Blockworks are anticipating “$8-$10 million in revenue this year,” up 3X, and plan “to double in staff from 17 to nearly 40 by the end of the year, with the majority of new hires coming from the content side of its business.” Rising tides tend to lift all boats. 

Fingers’ Crossed in Hopes of a Benevolent New SEC Chair

Dubbed Crypto Mom for her seemingly pro-crypto takes, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commissioner Hester Peirce mused over new Chair Gary Gensler, “We've talked a lot over the last 3 years,” she noted. “I hope under Chair Gensler we'll finally get comfortable with American investors having access to crypto-based securities products.” Pierce pointed to a recent SEC Division of Investment Management (IM) statement as perhaps a possible proof, “Funds Registered Under the Investment Company Act Investing in the Bitcoin Futures Market.” In it, the IM outlines a Bitcoin Futures, well, future and a commitment to regulatory clarity via transparency.

By C. Edward Kelso, NBTV contributor.

Find more of Kelso’s work here: @coinfugazi / coinfugazi.com

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