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When mentioning the cypherpunks, I like to point to Moxie Marlinkspike’s explanation of their failure.

In his talk from Defcon 18 (transcript available), Moxie argues that what we were preparing for was fascism and what we got was social democracy. For me it was an eye-opening explanation, and one that I think is important to understand given the ever-increasing network effect of technologies that are a not only a danger to personal privacy but can also grow to threaten free thought.

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Currently reading This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg

When the book was first published I assumed it would be just another entry into the media hubbub around WikiLeaks. When I saw that John Young — cranky old man of the cypherpunk movement — gave it a positive review I decided that it would be worth a read. While the book does center on Assange, Greenberg does an admirable job of tracing the history of the cypherpunks and describing what in the future we will probably refer to as a sequel to the cryptowars. It is a recommended read.

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Bitcoins are not a value-store.

When I first learned about the Bitcoin currency a few years ago, it didn’t excite me. A purely digital currency tied to no material good seemed an interesting project, but I didn’t see that it could have the practical value of, say, a digital gold currency. When the media blitz occurred last year I took another look and reached the same conclusion. A few months later I realized I was looking at the currency all wrong: bitcoins are not a value-store, they’re a means of exchange.

It doesn’t matter that Bitcoins are the digital equivalent of a fiat currency, with no inherent value. It doesn’t matter if their value fluctuates in relation to other currencies. There’s no reason to store wealth in Bitcoins (unless you’re a gambler). When you need to send money, purchase some Bitcoins and send them. When you need to receive money, accept Bitcoins and exchange them immediately for another currency. The value of the bitcoins only need to remain stable for the amount of time it takes to complete a transaction.

You are responsible for your own privacy.

Every so often there are stories announcing the fact that emails are not legally protected or that G-men can access email older than 180 days without a warrant. There will be some minor uproar, complaining about how outdated the law is, but here’s the thing: it’s irrelevant.

You don’t need to trust your service provider. You don’t need to trust your storage provider. You don’t need the law to protect you. You simply need to take a little self-responsibility and encrypt your data.

Any private data stored on hardware that you do not physically control should be encrypted (and it’s a good idea to encrypt private data on hardware that you do physically control). Problem solved. Unless you’re in the UK.

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