Law Enforcement Can’t Have Access to Everyone’s Data
Law enforcement needs to back off and respect privacy in the crypto space. That’s the bottom line from Ahmed Ghappour, the general counsel at the privacy-focused project Nym Technologies, in a short interview with Cointelegraph. We couldn’t agree more.
According to Ghappour, there are contradictory concepts in the Web3 space. This is the promise of returning data ownership to the people while having complete transparency regarding blockchain transactions. The lawyer noted that to fulfill these contradictory goals, privacy is the key.
However, with the Tornado Cash incident, it's apparent that privacy technologies are in the sights of United States regulators. The lawyer highlighted that this hinders the ability of the space to innovate. He said that:
“The United States is trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer. [...] OFAC designation is meant to trigger economic sanctions primarily against countries and groups of individuals, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers—not ideas, algorithms, or code.”
When the Treasury Department blacklisted Ethereum coin mixer Tornado Cash, they weren’t sanctioning rogue nations, drug kingpins or “enemy oligarchs” – they were sanctioning source code.
Ghappour explained that there is a good reason not to sanction ideas. It’s because the effect will be neutralizing a target by criminalizing almost any association with it, even harmless associations with clearly no ties to any other criminal conduct.
When asked if there’s a way to balance the interests of regulators and the people who want privacy, the lawyer highlighted that it depends on the interests of regulators. Ghappour said that achieving a balance requires regulators to align their interests with the people and account for the need for privacy. He explained that:
“Achieving a balance requires law enforcement to give up on unrealistic assumptions about unfettered access to everyone’s data on a silver platter.”
We agree. The US government has tried this trick before. Prior to the mid-90’s, encryption software was classified as a munition under US law. But, in Bernstein v. Department of Justice, the 9th Circuit ruled that source code is speech protected under the First Amendment. Crypto advocates need to push back against these attempts to regulate and centralize the crypto space, both through the legislative process and through the tech itself. The good news is that US law is actually on our side.