Unchained Podcast: Decentralization in Authoritarian Regimes like China and Venezuela?

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Host: Laura Shin – Unconfirmed and Unchained Podcasts – Crypto/Blockchain journalist

Panel (Guests)

Alejandro Machado, a researcher at Zcash

Amber Baldet, founder and CEO of Clovyr

Andy Bromberg, co-founder, and president of CoinList

Megha Rajagopalan, a correspondent for Buzzfeed and former China bureau chief

 

How are individuals/groups in China using crypto assets?

  • Tech Savvy individuals in China try to use more private apps.
  • Rising government surveillance in China.
  • Rise of epayments in China. Cash is viewed as dirty. The culture around cash in China has changed remarkably.
  • In China, the government can request companies to send data on consumer information. Which is more difficult to do in the U.S.
  • Police departments use a ‘predictive system’ that uses data from various aspects of your life. Information gathered from Tech companies.
  • Some of the first things police do is look at financial transactions.
  • Social Credit System-collection of programs on all levels of government. Uses a system of rewards and incentives that encourage people to do good things.
  • Google Dragonfly a service that might be offered in China-a more censored Version of Googles Search Engine. Google was in China until 2010; left due to Chinese privacy infringement. Google has not confirmed any information or future commitments in China. Including speculation about the censored search engine prototype.
  • China is the largest Search Engine market and will continue to grow. If Google was to enter the Chinese Market again, so might other companies like Twitter.
  • China is currently backing NEO, one of many cryptocurrencies. Trying not to disrupt its current currency in the process.
  • In Xinjiang (West of China) people of ethnic minorities are being spied upon and seized over minor issues, such as sending a picture of a Mosque.

 How are individuals/groups in Venezuela using crypto assets?

  • Internet speeds very slow. Some areas no internet connection at all.
  • No community for people interested in a free market society.
  • The government empowers itself through fear.
    • For example, you can’t tweet something negative about a government official.
  • The government has proven itself ignorant of maintaining a responsible monetary system.
  • Hyperinflation began in December 2017 and continues to rise at an alarming rate, resulting in the rise of immigration towards Columbia.
  • With no proper currency at hand, people are heading towards cryptocurrencies. Including the government.
  • The Government initiated a Petro ICO-not the most reliable currency. Security on the website wasn’t even up to par.
  • ICO = Initial Coin offering is a fast way to crowdfund for cryptocurrencies around the world.
  • Government works with shady industries. They wanted to raise $6 billion in the ICO.
  • An example, A doctor in Venezuela earns $10 a month. Not enough to have a normal life. He started mining Etherium and began earning $150 a month.

Decentralized technologies and Censorship-resistance.

  • Decentralization can solve widely different problems, currency issues, sustainability, censorship, and surveillance. Governments can’t censor or control
  • For example, The internet itself doesn’t do anything but convey information.
  • Platform grade censorship resistance avoids single parties controlling it.
  • Decentralization is where a massive network does not rely on any party.
  • Governments like in China have the resources to take control over small functioning decentralized systems.
  • ZCash being developed in the U.S. The company is using cryptography to improve privacy around the world.

 Issues of decentralized Technologies.

  • Usability, most people aren’t tech savvy, and most don’t even have computers in Venezuela in particular. They do have phones, not any apps. The lucky few are getting the benefits that Cryptocurrencies can supply
  • Governments can generate their own cryptocurrencies and evade sanctions.
  • One of the promises of decentralized technology that it moves the advantages from attackers to defenders.
  • There is some evidence that North Korean hackers target U.S. individuals locking their computers and requesting bitcoin to be paid for ransom. (Ransomware)
  • North Korea is interested in crypto because they don’t have accsess to global financial assets. They will use anything to smuggle money; drugs included.

 

Extra

  •  Just some problems to solve before making decentralized technologies widely usable.
  • Products must become more user-friendly to the average consumer. (Being secure on the internet takes hard work).
  • Performing analytics on private data.
    1. For example, currently, Netflix can use your data to determine preference levels for certain shows. That improves user interaction, so how can we build that same system but with more secure data? Estimated solution to be a decade away.

Notes Authored by David Shevchenko

Citations

Google’s Dragonfly project: https://theintercept.com/2018/09/14/google-china-prototype-links-searches-to-phone-numbers/

PC Mag story on how cryptocurrency is both “an oppressor and a lifeline” in Venezuela: https://www.pcmag.com/feature/362486/in-venezuela-cryptocurrency-is-an-oppressor-and-a-lifeline

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