Privacy is under attack, and it’s time to heed the warnings from where these attacks are felt most because eventually it’ll spread to everyone else.
November 18, 2019
By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP
One person told me, “I don’t care. They are welcome to root around in my life. They won’t find anything because it’s uneventful and boring. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Oh sweet summer child. No. They will find whatever they want to find. But let’s say for a second they wouldn’t.
It’s not about “hiding”. That needs to be dispelled. I’m astounded at how open-minded people are until it comes to actual privacy, then they start to sound so stodgy.
Privacy is about discretion. I like this example:
People seek out a bathroom and close the door for privacy. Not because they are engaging in criminal activity, but because they are engaging in an activity they would rather not share with everyone else.
And while there might still be the edgelords who wouldn’t care if someone watched them use the restroom, that isn’t a policy call they should be making for the rest of us.
The default should be privacy, with the individual ability to opt out and share if desired.
In the government’s war on cryptocurrencies, the rhetoric is clearly geared to make all this about “criminals”. Evil tax evaders, money launderers, and drug dealers! The government hates competition right?
They pick off those in the marginal space because people have been conditioned to dehumanize them. The government is hiding behind these easy targets, but there are plenty of others who are harmed by this in their blind pursuit of these “criminals”.
Imagine the bathroom example. You’re in a stall, and the government is looking for a drug dealer. Every time you use a stall, they kick yours in because they are looking for a drug dealer. At what point do you say enough?
There’s a bipartisan effort to expand what constitutes criminality, it seems, so politicians can build their reputations as being “tough on crime and devoted to your safety”.
The term “human trafficking” has come to prominence, for example. It used to refer to criminal rings that would kidnap women and children for the purposes of sex slavery. This is of course horrible.
But like many horrible things, it’s been diluted. Now, “human trafficking” includes consensual sex work, which puts the screws to those who are tangentially connected to such industries.
One former sex worker says the moral panic over prostitution is a “combination of the conservative fetish for going after people for doing ‘sex stuff’ and the liberal instinct to help a group of people that they can’t be bothered to understand.”
With the passage of FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) in 2017, many businesses started cutting off legal sex workers:
Banks and platforms like Venmo, Airbnb and GoFundMe are kicking out sex workers en masse in the wake of FOSTA’s passage. The Fight Online Trafficking Act makes it illegal for any site to facilitate or support prostitution. That broad declaration has far-reaching consequences for sex workers trying to use basic services like banking or Twitter.
Two major things happened to the sex industry that is a canary in the coalmine for the rest of us: 1. Shutting down Back Page and 2. Paypal terminating its services with Pornhub.
If you want to know where your right to privacy is going, watch offshore and sex work. While both have a small legal space in the US, they are often frowned upon by many, which makes them acceptable victims of state scrutiny.
The problem with that is, once people tolerate that with offshore and sex work, it isn’t long before it comes for their wholesomeness next.
Michael Lacey and James Larkin are the creators of BackPage.com. They are awaiting trial on counts of money laundering, conspiracy, and facilitating prostitution. Their page was taken down by the federal government.
That sounds pretty nasty, right? About as nasty as the charges brought against Ross Ulbrecht?
Back Page became known for its adult classified ads. The byproducts of online solicitation was that sex workers didn’t need to walk the streets or work for pimps anymore. There was a lot more security in the discretion this platform allowed.
Moreover, there were networking cites that would allow the workers in the industry know who the bad actors were. Overall, it made sex work much safer because not only could the workers screen the clientele, they had digital evidence of who they were in contact with should something go wrong.
Back Page also worked with local law enforcement to bust those who were bad actors, and collaborated with local non-profits that helped minors in that space get out.
Politicians like John McCain and Kamala Harris wanted to build their careers off taking down cites like Back Page to tout as a success in fighting “human trafficking”. They got Craigslist to capitulate, but Back Page stood its ground that they did nothing wrong and were operating well within their first amendment rights.
Up until April 2018, they won every single lawsuit leveled against them.
This isn’t the defense of sex work, it’s the defense of something much more far-reaching. Privacy and discretion is what made this industry safer. When you take that away, you leave people more vulnerable to harm. Privacy is as much a tool of protection as a gun.
When you close the curtains to your home, you make it harder for someone to case your home to see what sort of valuables you might have. If the government decided to institute a law that said no one could have curtains or blinds, you would either live in a bunker-like home or hide your stuff.
All this shaming and cancel culture has lead another heavy hitter to surrender under pressure: PayPal.
PayPal’s reasons for stopping the Pornhub payments are still murky. But the firm may have been influenced by two federal anti-sex trafficking laws that have broad implications for the tech industry, according to software engineer Alison Falk.
One of the measures — the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act — makes internet companies potentially liable if they knowingly facilitate activities that violate existing sex-trafficking laws. Cutting off the models’ money may be a cautious step PayPal is taking to make sure it’s not breaking the law, Falk said.
Over 100,000 performers in PornHub’s “Model Program” were affected. Original content creators earn a share of the advertising revenue as they are given full ownership of what they produce. The platform is scrambling to find a way to get payments to its content providers.
Pornhub offers other payment options such as direct deposit, Verge cryptocurrency, Paxum e-wallets and paper checks. The site will add “more sex worker friendly” payment methods and explore cryptocurrency options going forward, according to PornHub VP Corey Price.
Whether you think sex work is right or wrong, it exists and isn’t going anywhere. Putting pressure on companies like PayPal to distance themselves from these industries, only serves to push sex work into the shadows where real criminality is given that cloak of darkness to thrive.
The performers and models on PornHub who used PayPal to receive compensation operated above board. They diligently followed the rules and submitted proof of identification and being over 18. They were out in the open and with a trail of income on PayPal probably paying their taxes.
Cryptocurrencies have never leveled any moral judgments on who uses it. Rather than risk a similar debacle with another payment platform like PayPal, sex workers will rely on direct deposit or cryptocurrency moving forward.
Crypto provides privacy for all parties involved. The kind of privacy that falls under the category of discretion. Nothing traceable to a credit card, nothing traceable to an income, everyone wins.
The government and its self-righteous supporters keep ushering in further intrusions into the lives of individuals. People are going to shift how they do business. In some cases, it becomes less safe as is the case with the crackdown on online solicitation pages.
In others, it go so deep underground, likely to never resurface. Keep in mind, sex workers were the early adopters for services like PayPal. Were it not for that industry, PayPal and others might not have gotten past their early stages. Chances are, once the industry shifts to crypto, it won’t turn back.
Sex workers could propel cryptocurrencies to a new level of popularity, making it more mainstream, in the same way they did for platforms like PayPal. If crypto exchanges can remain neutral to its users, they will find a very loyal base and see considerable growth in use.
Cryptocurrency isn’t just about hiding behaviors from polite society. Cryptocurrency is closing the stall door on your transactions because it’s not something you care to share with everyone, least of all the government.
The privacy offered by crypto is one of discretion. You decide what you want to share and what you don’t. And that’s as it should be. No matter what your walk of life, you should be able to opt in or opt out of sharing your transactional goings.
If you dare to have wealth in an era where wealth is vilified, and saving or keeping your own money is rhetorically tantamount to theft, it won’t be long before you find yourself being cut off and prosecuted. The stories of what happened to Back Page and Pornhub are a warning to all. It only takes a twist in the narrative to turn prostitution into “sex trafficking”… how simple will it be to spin a savings account into a similar criminal act?
Protect your privacy and your privacy will protect you. Simple as that.