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More back door men at DOJ
So are there 7 Eyes now?The Department of Justice has been busy thinking about how to deal with cryptographic technologies. This past month, DOJ has issued two major statements on privacy-preserving tech, one of them an international rallying cry to build government backdoors into secure communications and the other a "clarification" of federal policy surrounding cryptocurrency applications. Unsurprisingly, both documents view privacy-preserving technologies as impediments to DOJ operations.
The encryption statement was mostly a reiteration of long-standing government issues with secure communications, this time wrapped in the packaging of saving children from criminals. Signatories from the Anglo governments ("Five Eyes") plus India and Japan again asserted that "public safety [can] be protected without compromising privacy or cyber security." This is obviously true in the abstract, but not when the "protection" in question is a government backdoor that necessarily compromises privacy and security. No new ground was broken here.
There is no question that criminals may choose to use cryptocurrency, and this requires new law enforcement strategies. The DOJ extols several crackdowns on criminal activities: There is Operation DisrupTor, which took down international darknet drug markets, the Welcome to Video bust of child exploitation merchants, and the dismantling of terrorist financing campaigns. It is fantastic that violent criminal enterprises have been taken down, and blockchain forensics play a large role in these law enforcement successes.
In other words, like with encryption in general, while cryptocurrency does create new challenges for law enforcement, it also offers new opportunities for creative yet constitutional investigations of clearly anti-social criminal activities.
As someone who thinks a lot about privacy and security holes with cryptocurrency, it's interesting to see outsider perspectives that assume things like bitcoin offer strong privacy by default. As a series by privacy researcher Eric Wall makes clear, perfect cryptocurrency anonymity is almost comically hard to achieve even with custom-built "privacycoins" offering stronger anti-surveillance tools. There are so many ways that users can leak identity data to powerful and motivated adversaries like the DOJ—if the blockchain doesn't get you, your IP address, wallet software, poor address hygiene, and even your sleep schedule trivially could. It's no wonder the DOJ can boast of so many crypto-seizures.