Bitcoin’s public blockchain may be its biggest flaw. This is according to Edward Snowden, the infamous US whistle-blower. While everyone is concerned about the transactional limits of Bitcoin, very few give thought to the implications of its public ledger in regard to privacy.
A much larger structural flaw
Describing the public ledger as Bitcoin’s “much larger structural flaw”, Snowden expressed his reservations about Bitcoin’s ability to support global trade in the long haul while the complete purchase history of its users is publicly available to everyone:
The much larger structural flaw is its public ledger that’s simply incompatible with having an enduring mechanism for trade. You cannot have a life-long history of everyone’s purchases, all of their interactions be available to everyone and have that work out well at scale.
In an interview via webcam with Coin Center’s Peter Van Valkenburgh during the Blockstack Berlin 2018 conference, Snowden mentioned Zcash as one of the cryptocurrencies he is most excited about.
When we talk about which cryptocurrencies are interesting to me, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Zcash for me is the most interesting right now, because the privacy properties of it are truly unique, but we see more and more projects that are trying to emulate this and I think this is a positive thing.
Bitcoin may not last forever
In a rather unpopular and controversial opinion, Snowden stated that he doesn’t think Bitcoin will last forever and that better cryptocurrencies with more advanced technology will take its place in the future. He described this as a natural phenomenon that happens in every field.
Bitcoin does important work and I do think it will have enduring value for a long time, but particularly when we look at the core development team and their rate of improvement to the protocol, they simply need to do better or they will not be able to compete.
Snowden went on to express concern regarding state-run cryptocurrencies which he believes will come to be used by dictatorial governments for their own selfish purposes. The solution to this challenge is the creation of competing systems that are so attractive that the ordinary user can’t ignore them, while at the same time making the systems strong enough that no one government can manage to take them down without causing a complete upheaval of the economic order.
When asked if he owned any cryptocurrencies, Snowden wittingly evaded the question. “As a privacy advocate, I would recommend no one ever say that they have cryptocurrencies,” he answered, eliciting much laughter from the crowd.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Snowden went on to blast the crypto community which has let internal competition blind them to the ultimate goal. New projects should be encouraged as the crypto community is still relatively small and needs to grow, he said. Having a broad community that’s willing to defend not just individual cryptocurrencies but every other crypto is the only way that the crypto community can stand up against the government.
The Blockstack Berlin conference brought together industry experts, corporate leaders and crypto enthusiasts to discuss the progress of blockchain technology, challenges being faced, and the future of the cryptocurrency community. Among the most common topics of discussion were the huge role decentralized apps will play in the development of the cryptocurrency industry, the importance of decentralizing the internet, the role of blockchain technology in preserving democracy, and the growth of the internet of value.
Among the key speakers were Elizabeth Stark, the Lightning Labs co-founder; Nick Szabo, the creator of Bitgold, which was a precursor to Bitcoin; and Albert Wenger, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures and a cryptocurrency enthusiast.