As society has moved from dial-up modems to a near-permanent online presence via smartphones, the way people interact with networks has changed dramatically. The Internet has become not only a place where people can access vast amounts of information and communicate with others, but also a means for corporations and governments to collect vast amounts of information.
Edward Snowden says this move away from the roots of the Internet was partly the result of corporations not putting their users first.
“We lost this internet because we connected billions of people and the people who provided the gateways for it didn’t care about their own interests,” he said in an intimate fireside chat to 75 attendees at Camp Decrypt in Napa Valley. last month.
Former NSA contractor turned whistleblower known for disclosure illegal mass surveillance program in the US in 2013, said he sees a similar trend when it comes to the adoption of cryptocurrencies.
Snowden compared the way cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase attracts users to how Facebook has become synonymous with social media.
“We see people exploiting the ignorance that has made so many people consider using the Facebook app on their phone. [is] Internet, and now I think that cryptocurrency is Coinbase or something else equally terrible,” he said.
Coinbase is the only publicly listed cryptocurrency exchange in the US and the country’s leading exchange by volume, according to CoinGecko. The company said it averaged 8.5 million monthly transactional users in the third fiscal quarter of this year, up 16% from the same period a year ago.
Snowden told Camp Decrypt attendees that Coinbase has put regulatory compliance ahead of the founding ideals of blockchain-based networks, an innovation that could put power back in the hands of internet users.
“For those of you who work for Coinbase, this is nothing personal, you are just an example [the] overly accommodating, overly indulgent,” he said. “Yes guys, you will still get rich, you will make a lot of money, but did you really promote the interests of society?”
Coinbase claims to have prioritized compliance from the outset, and the company said that working with regulators is the key to widespread acceptance of cryptocurrencies as an asset class.
“We have always believed that in order for a cryptocurrency to acquire the legitimacy necessary for mass adoption, compliance cannot be secondary – it must be the basis of our work,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Compliance with the existing regulatory framework is not an option, but a necessity.”
Snowden went on to compare Coinbase to a company that sells goods in much the same way as a home improvement retailer like Home Depot does, adding that its commitment to Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures that help them comply with anti-money regulations . laundering rules are a brake on the crypto space.
“You don’t even make lawn mowers, you sell them, but great, you popularized lawn mowers – lawn mowers are important, they are valuable,” he said. “But when I go out to buy a lawnmower, no one asks me to hold up my passport and have my face scanned, and the fact that you guys agree with that is downright toxic and embarrassing.”
Snowden said that companies seeking to engage people in the Web3 world while still maintaining regulatory compliance must do so in a way that does not compromise the ideals that originally drew people to the industry.
“My request to those of you at this big end of the pool is that if you are going to flex, flex strategically,” Snowden said. “Leave room for protocol and the values that we all need to represent here.”
Coinbase said it has the same responsibilities as other major financial institutions when it comes to verifying customers who interact with the company and enforcing anti-money laundering policies. Many of its compliance programs are modeled after retail banks.
Company explains that its compliance programs, which include monitoring the entire cryptocurrency market and detecting financial crime, are designed to protect its clients.
Snowden expanded his criticism to include any cryptocurrency exchange that tracks user funds.
“You don’t want to be in a position where you can test it because it’s not really your role in society, even if [the] The government says yes,” Snowden said. “This is for the police, this is for intelligence – that’s their job, and their job should be hard.”
Coinbase did not immediately respond to a request for comment from decipher.
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