Europe has lately been taking clear steps towards totalitarianism, showcasing a desire to take control of people's lives, from communication to private property. In the last few days, individual moves by different countries in the continent have further illustrated this trend. Thanks to Satoshi Nakamoto, however, we at least have bitcoin –– the unstoppable peer-to-peer currency set to be the answer.
European Parliament Approves Mass Surveillance Of Private Communications
The European Parliament has approved the “ePrivacy Derogation”, which allows email and messaging service providers to search all personal messages of citizens automatically. The alleged motivation backing this action is to search “for presumed suspect content and report suspected cases to the police”, as shared by Patrick Breyer, digital freedom fighter and member of the European Parliament since 2019.
"In today's vote, 537 Members of the European Parliament approved Chatcontrol, with 133 voting against and 20 abstentions," Breyer wrote. "While providers will initially have a choice to search or not to search communications, follow-up legislation, expected in autumn, is to oblige all communications service providers to indiscriminate screening."
However, what this totalitarian move effectively represents is a new and automated mass surveillance reality in the European Union. Citizens will be prevented from enjoying private conversations in networked mediums altogether. Digital privacy should be acknowledged as a natural extension of human privacy rights, something the United Nations supposedly recognizes.
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation," reads Article 12 of the U.N.'s Declaration of Human Rights. "Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
It is therefore unclear how much mass surveillance action could pass Parliament. Breyer also shared his thoughts on the EU's new regulation:
"The adoption of the first ever EU regulation on mass surveillance is a sad day for all those who rely on free and confidential communications and advice, including abuse victims and press sources," he wrote. "The regulation deals a death blow to the confidentiality of digital correspondence. It is a general breach of the dam to permit indiscriminate surveillance of private spaces by corporations – by this totalitarian logic, our post, our smartphones or our bedrooms could also be generally monitored. Unleashing such denunciation machines on us is ineffective, illegal and irresponsible."
Such a move by the European Union infringes upon human rights and doesn't necessarily lead to its desired outcomes. According to Breyer, in most cases innocent citizens come under suspicion of having committed an offense due to unreliable processes. Therefore, in this case, the many pay a toll for the actions of a select few through an indirect, fallacious claim that the ends justify the means.
Child abuse and pornography, seemingly central aspects to the law's approval, would also not be eradicated by these surveillance mechanisms.
"Indiscriminate searches will not protect children and even endanger them by exposing their private photos to unknown persons, and by criminalising children themselves," wrote Breyer. "The right approach would be, for example, to intensify undercover investigations into child porn rings and reduce the years-long processing backlogs in searches and evaluations of seized data."
Russia Is Preparing Legal Amendment To Allow Bitcoin Confiscation
According to Russian news outlet TASS, the country's lawmakers are working on legislative amendments to authorize the confiscation of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies under the claims that they are allegedly being used for criminal activities.
"A serious challenge is the criminal use of cryptocurrencies in our country," said Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, according to a translated version of the report. "A significant step in overcoming this problem was the adoption in July 2020 of the federal law [on digital assets]. Currently, work is underway to amend the criminal procedural legislation. This will allow the application of restrictive measures and confiscation of virtual assets."
Krokov later added that bitcoin has increasingly been used for bribery and corruption in Russia. The solution, he thinks, is to allow the government to seize BTC. He believes this would deter future criminals from using bitcoin for illegal activities.
"The latency of these criminal acts has recently been aggravated by the use of crypto assets as bribes, the performance of cryptocurrency exchange operations as a way to launder stolen budget funds," Krasnov said.
The prosecutor's remarks demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of how Bitcoin fundamentally works. If users transact with BTC that they custody themselves, there is virtually no way for the government to interfere. Russian officials, or those from any other country for that matter, cannot stop, censor or revert bitcoin transactions. And BTC seizure is no different –– a third party cannot hijack bitcoin under self-custody unless through personal or remote attacks. The only scenario this could happen would be if the transacting parties utilize centralized services of bitcoin custody and transmission such as, for example, a centralized exchange. But in that case the users would not be transacting BTC anyway.
It remains to be seen how the Russian government will proceed in the coming months. Nonetheless, this law would also mark a clear demonstration of authoritarianism and infringement of human rights if enacted. It does not make sense to punish use of the tool itself rather than the criminal user. If such an approach were to be applied to other monetary mediums of exchange, people would stop using dollars and traditional banks, which very often serve criminal purposes.
Spain Looking To Allow The Seizure Of Private Property
Over the weekend, the government of Spain started flirting with totalitarian measures itself. According to a report by local news outlet El País, Spain is mulling over a national mobilization and "security law" which would compel citizens to "temporarily" give up their rights in instances of future public health crises or other emergencies.
"Any person of legal age shall be obliged to carry out the “personal obligations” required by the competent authorities, following the guidelines of the National Security Council, when a state of crisis is declared in Spain," read a translation of the report. "In this case, all citizens without exception must comply with the orders and instructions issued by the authorities."
The vagueness of the statement suggests that nothing would be off-limits as it relates to legitimizing state authorities ability to invade citizens' personal lives and private property, which is also cited.
"In the event that a state of crisis is declared in Spain (“situation of interest to National Security” is the exact name given by law), the authorities may also proceed to the temporary requisition of all types of property, at the intervention or provisional occupation of those that are necessary or the suspension of all kinds of activities," states the report.
Although the future legislation would allegedly assure a "compensation" to follow, it is unclear if the government would endure it. And even then, this law would embody sharp, tangible detriments to fundamental human rights. This is because, since the state itself is the one to declare the "state of emergency," any ruling government would enjoy the absolute power to act on it and seize and control what they see fit.
Bitcoin Is The Way Out
The monetary network idealized and shared by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 is uniquely positioned to empower those who find themselves trapped by totalitarian regimes that do not respect basic human rights.
Bitcoin, founded on a set of principles that value private property, individual freedom and financial sovereignty, can help those reclaim what is theirs and have meticulous control of what, how and when to spend their money and with whom.
People across the globe that research the basics of Bitcoin, learn how to properly leverage it for privacy, self-custody their holdings and run their own nodes to become self-sovereign will be able to peacefully withstand such totalitarian regimes in case they disseminate –– as well as to take a meaningful stance against them.