The concept of surveillance is certainly not one with which modern humanity is unfamiliar. We are bombarded almost weekly with stories of companies, government agencies, and other organizations whose systems were hacked or otherwise compromised, which led to the release of our personal information that we weren’t aware was being collected. If one thing is certain, it’s that a lot more of our private information is floating around on the internet and in corporate and government databases than we would like.
Under that lens, it’s interesting to consider the fact that one of blockchain’s greatest strengths is its status as a public ledger recording all of its users’ activity. On the one hand, blockchain ensures that societies aren’t required to put their trust in a single entity or group at the center of the network. But on the other hand, the public nature of blockchain requires that we put our trust in everyone.
Regardless, it should hardly come as a surprise that governments are very interested in the information contained on blockchains and in the surveillance that such information enables. Conspiracy theorists have speculated for a long time that government agencies may have been involved in the creation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. And we know that governments around the world are working to roll out their own pseudo-cryptocurrencies, Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), to further their own monopolization of citizens’ finances and data. What we didn’t know, at least until recently, was how deep into blockchain surveillance states really are.