My rebuttals to Brian Armstrong's tweet storm where he defends CoinBase's decision to provide chain analysis services to law enforcement agencies.
This is not an ad hominem attack on Brian, this is not an attack at all, I try to present an alternative perspective on the things Brian said in defense of CoinBase's decision to work with Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) by providing them chain analysis services. Brian has demonstrated that compliance is core to CoinBase's strategy, and I think that puts the government's best interest ahead of the customer's best interest. When the customer's best interest is secondary, free-enterprise has been hi-jacked by oppressive government, that battle has clearly been lost. The government get's unrestricted and privacy-invasive insight into people's transactions, these people thought they were doing something to help themselves out of the continual deterioration of their wealth by opting into Bitcoin. People who wanted to preserve the time they exchanged for pay are being specifically targeted because the medium of pay they were given is broken and constantly loosing value to inflation, so they get punished in the form of sacrificing their privacy because they found an alternative.
All the while, smiling to their face, CoinBase invites these people in with open arms, user friendly applications, and convenient payment methods. Simultaneously, with a knife behind their back, CoinBase provides government agencies with the tools necessary to follow every transaction on the public ledger and conveniently provide a nicely packaged file on any individual, should the need arise, that includes personally identifiable information coupled with the on-chain transaction history.
I find it really quite disturbing how the ideas of censorship resistance, decentralization, neutrality, open source, & borderless technologies applied to money are being branded, marketed, and sold to the masses when what is actually being delivered is a tracking device tied to a person's identity to generate data that is sold to government oppressors.
CoinBase has turned Brian Armstrong into a billionaire, selling the idea of freedom while architecting the slaughterhouse. So when I see Brian produce a tweet storm defending his company's atrocious decisions I cannot help but call it as I see it.
Below is an article of rebuttals to the latest line of shit from @brian_armstrong which can be found in his original tweet storm here:
Keep in mind, your government completely fucked up your money. Bitcoin enabled a trustless escape pod. But @coinbase and many others are working around the clock to fuck Bitcoin up too.
If I leave my fingerprint on the railing in a subway, that doesn't make it ok to collect it, analyze it, & sell that data to the government. Just because you can abuse publicly available data doesn't mean you should. Even if it leads to the prosecution of a bad actor. Brian is trying to minimize the extent of the new frontier in privacy invasion his company has capitalized on. This is similar to the kind of rhetoric one will hear from an oil company when a fracking site is built 250ft from their home.
When an exchange registers with FinCEN they are required to have AML policies in place to help guide them in mitigating money laundering. That doesn't mean they are required to actively spy on their customers. There is a huge difference here. Brian is trying to blur the line between what is required by AML regulations and what his company decided to do, which is not required by AML regulations but is in fact active spying on CoinBase customers for the benefit of LEAs.
"I didn't make the rules, I just follow them" is the truest form of cowardice in a leader. Real leaders put their job on the line every day in order to do the right thing. Remember too, that FinCEN requires mitigation AML policies not active spying. Brian really goes out into left field here, actively spying on your customers is not following the rules, there is no AML rule that says this.
Blockchain spy companies like to swoop in early and confuse the shit out of organizations, making it sound so complicated that the organization opts to just pay them to "handle it". Clearly they made an impression on Brian, and he wanted to go beyond the letter of the law. This is really where the lines between what is required by law and what is being done simply because it is possible start to get blurred.
Why stop at the AML mitigation policies when they can spy on all the customers & all the chains? Enter the Neutrino acquisition, whose founder previously made a living selling spyware to human rights violating countries such as Egypt, Kazakhstan, Russia, & Saudi Arabia. It's difficult not to imagine a board meeting with the CoinBase executives and a few representatives from the FBI, CIA, & IRS throwing ideas around like armchair quarterbacks about how the other oppressive government counterparts were able to invasively gather data on their citizens.
"We spent a bunch of money making unnecessary & voluntary blockchain spyware, now we need to sell it". How sad. Notice how Brian attempts to justify the existence of a volunteer project with the cost of developing the project. It speaks volumes about the motives CoinBase has in capitalizing on their customer's data. As for the law enforcement relationships, Bitcoin has been working just fine without law enforcement involvement. Relationships of any kind are not important in a trustless system. The protocol works the same for everyone, every time. Bitcoin is not recognized as legal tender anywhere in the world, so once that fiat money has been exchanged, that's where CoinBase's responsibility stops. On the other side of that threshold is an environment strictly dictated by math, regardless of the motives behind the person controlling it. Law enforcement can fuck off until an actual crime has occurred, then react. Not preemptively spy.
Wrong. Fiat will flow into BTC because fiat is broken & people are waking up, that has nothing to do with law enforcement involvement. Also, if the chain analysis software is "just compiling" then why was it sooo fucking expensive!? Notice how Brian attempts to minimize the chain analysis software when talking about its capabilities, yet when justifying it's existence he up-plays the cost and effort that went into it's infrastructure. Publicly available doesn't mean it's ok to stalk me. We can both walk down the street but you start following me & we have a problem. Just because you can trace Bitcoin transactions doesn't mean you should, especially when you have the user's PII, that just means you want to hold an individual accountable.
This is just baffling, if you think everyone should have more financial privacy then why are you building blockchain spyware & selling it to big brother? Using privacy coins doesn't negate the fact that people will still hand over their KYC to CoinBase at the on-ramp. Additionally, CoinBase doesn't list Monero. CoinBase does list Zcash, but users cannot withdraw to shield addresses, so this is very hypocritical of Brian to claim these things. (Article Brian links to)
True. However, any number of people out there don't have my KYC.
He's forgetting to mention their new relationship with every 3-letter agency. Clearly the relationship with "the new crypto world" is not symbiotic.
Here's my advice: learn to swim, burn the bridge. I couldn't disagree with Brain more on this point. The legacy financial system is broken, has been broken for decades, has enabled endless wars, devalued the time and efforts of people everywhere, and has only served to benefit the few. Strict government regulations are put in place to ensure that the many cannot climb the ladder and join the few. Forcing these regulations into Bitcoin serves only to duplicate and continue the system of oppression that Bitcoin was designed to replace. The connections need to be severed, the bridge needs to burn, and those brave enough to venture into unchartered territory need not look back.
This path he's describing is fraught with peril and serves to benefit the few, not the many. There are no shiny new improvements at the end of this path, only regurgitated versions of all the things Bitcoiners are escaping but with a cool "Blockchain!" stamp on it. There will be no financial privacy down this path. One needs to look no further than the FATF Travel Rule and the proposed changes to force Money Services Businesses to collect KYC and automatically report Bitcoin transactions greater than $250.00 that cross a US border. Do you think that kind of regulation is paving the way for better financial privacy?
Thanks for reading! I hope this got you thinking critically about the the state of the Bitcoin ecosystem, how dangerous KYC on-ramps are, and where this is all going. People like Brian will stop at nothing to profit off of the misfortune of others. Don't be one those poor bastards. Stay away from CoinBase, stay away from KYC, use Bisq and get as far away from fiat currency as you can.
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This article is available on Twitter as a thread here.