Central Bank Digital Currencies are Spycoins

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Central Bank Digital Currencies are Spycoins

Unlike paper money, Central Bank Digital Currencies (“CDBCs”) are very unlikely to offer privacy protections.  They threaten privacy in ways that the world has never seen before.

In November, Big Brother Watch published a report titled ‘CBDC – a privacy-eroding pound? Lessons from international central bank digital currency pilots for the UK’. It provides an in-depth analysis of CBDC pilot projects from around the world.

“More than 130 central banks around the world are currently researching, piloting or have introduced a form of Central Bank Digital Currency,” the report says. “Among the countries looking at developing a CBDC is the UK, where the proposal is dubbed ‘Britcoin’ … Big Brother Watch is concerned that a UK CBDC as outlined in the consultation would be detrimental to people’s privacy, their freedom to spend money anonymously and the potential for the data collected to be used for surveillance.”

After analysing CBDC projects in Nigeria, Jamaica, Israel, Uruguay, Sweden, the EU and China, Big Brother Watch found that none of the CBDCs preserved privacy.

Because of their alarming findings, Big Brother Watch has launched a campaign “No Spycoin” and is encouraging people to email their Member for Parliament:

No one has made the case for why the UK needs a “digital pound” – but it would come at a major cost to our privacy, financial freedom and equality. The risks are huge. In a worst-case scenario, a CBDC could create a vast new web of financial surveillance and control.

All of the CBDC projects we examined gave us cause for serious concern and all of them have posed threats to privacy. As we tell the Government to rethink their plans for a spycoin, this report will help us show policymakers the risks that a UK CBDC would pose to our human rights and civil liberties.  Take Action Now.No Spycoin, Big Brother Watch

Levels of privacy is linked to levels of controllability.  Because those who want to issue CBDCs want to control all transactions, there can be no privacy.

Paper money or digital currency are fungible assets.  They can be exchanged for other currencies, goods or pay for services.  Non-fungible currency is a type of digital asset that is not directly replaceable with another digital asset.  CBDCs are non-fungible digital assets.

To illustrate what the limitations of exchanging non-fungible assets mean in practice, we’ll use the example of art and collectables as non-fungible assets. Art and collectables have unique properties and so cannot be easily appraised or exchanged.  Exceptional circumstances aside, we cannot buy goods, not even other pieces of art, or pay for services using art as a method of payment.

In its ‘Central Bank Digital Currency Virtual Handbook’ the International Monetary Fund attempts to market the idea that CBDCs are fungible money. “The implementation of [capital flow management measures] would leverage the programmability of CBDC transactions, not of CBDC itself, as money must remain fungible,” the IMF claims.

Do you trust what the IMF, which is part of the United Nations structure, says? No? Neither does Edward Snowden and he can prove why we shouldn’t.

Edward Snowden is a former American intelligence contractor and whistle-blower who alerted the world to the existence of a pervasive, secret, illegal surveillance program conducted by the NSA against the American people.

(Related: Surveillance State Exposed: The chilling echo of Snowden’s warning)

Last month, he joined Logos Podcast to discuss censorship resistance, cyber states and privacy.  “Privacy is power.  If you have no privacy, you have no power,” he said.

“The government doesn’t want fungible money. They don’t want sound money. They want controllable money. They want money that serves them,” Snowden said.

“When you see all these central bank digital currencies that they’re talking about, regardless of which country they’re being launched in … the idea is they can just take your money and say ‘poof it’s gone’. They can say we want to credit this account with more money [and] poof, it’s there.”

Although it’s not different from how currencies work traditionally now, Snowden said, CDBCs will be easier for them to reach.

“They don’t have to go into your mattress, they don’t have to count your bills [cash], because they can see every ‘bill’ everywhere – all the time they can track all the [CBDC] tokens and that’s extraordinarily dangerous … That’s what they’re all pursuing,” he said.

Edward Snowden: Censorship Resistance, Cyber States, Privacy | Logos Podcast with Jarrad Hope, 6 December 2023 (150 mins)

On his Substack page, Snowden published an article in 2021 explaining what a CBDC is, or as he wrote: “Rather, I will tell you what a CBDC is NOT – it is NOT, as Wikipedia might tell you, a digital dollar.”  It is simply an entry into a bank’s database. 

He provided the image below to demonstrate that, no matter how they are implemented, CBDCs cannot exist without the central bank knowing the details of every transaction.

In every example, money cannot exist outside the knowledge of the Central Bank
In every example, money cannot exist outside the knowledge of the Central Bank

“Neither is a Central Bank Digital Currency a State-level embrace of cryptocurrency – at least not of cryptocurrency as pretty much everyone in the world who uses it currently understands it,” he wrote.

Instead, a CBDC is something closer to being a perversion of cryptocurrency, or at least of the founding principles and protocols of cryptocurrency – a cryptofascist currency, an evil twin entered into the ledgers on Opposite Day, expressly designed to deny its users the basic ownership of their money and to install the State at the mediating centre of every transaction.Your Money AND Your Life: Central Banks Digital Currencies will ransom our future, Edward Snowden, 9 October 2021