Privacy on Ergo - A Fundamental Human Right

Hackathon News
Ergo Platform

February 15, 2023

It has long been debated that privacy is one of the primary use cases of blockchain technology. At its core, one of the defining principles of Ergo is financial privacy for the ordinary citizen. Some may argue that if you have nothing to hide, then one does not need privacy. However, this is a weak argument when considering that the right to privacy does not necessarily mean one is hiding something. In the Ergo Manifesto, Alex Chepurnoy describes why privacy is an essential human right - regardless of whether one’s actions are ethical or not.

The Ergo Manifesto states that:

“Financial privacy is especially vital because it can be the difference between survival and systematic suppression of an opposition group in a country with an authoritarian government. Absent privacy, individuals in society have no means of survival when under the threat of oppressive regimes.”

It is a harsh reality that many places in the world deal with extreme systematic financial inequality. Chepurnoy elaborates on this by asking the question:

“How many times in human history have religious, political, or tribal conflicts led to one group in power forcibly taking the wealth of another less powerful group? How often is seizing financial assets used as an authoritarian control?”

Our geographic borders, and respective economies, can have a significant impact on how we all perceive privacy. For those who live in financially privileged countries (where oppression is not as prevalent, or perceived), discussions around privacy can seem moot. However, government and financial regulation is not static, and stability is a construct that can be easily taken for granted. You may not need privacy until suddenly you do. Other countries in the world are not as fortunate, and their citizens would benefit greatly from some measure of financial privacy.

Chepurnoy writes in the Ergo Manifesto that:

“Financial privacy can allow people to protect their life savings when a government tries to confiscate its citizens' wealth, whether for political, ethnic, religious or "merely" economic reasons. Financial privacy is crucial to freedom, and many governments have shown themselves willing to abuse private financial information.”

To ensure citizens are able to protect themselves from financial abuse and oppression, non-custodial, decentralized privacy is essential. Privacy allows the ordinary citizen to maintain control over their personal lives with financial autonomy and freedom.

Ergo already possesses non-custodial privacy (ErgoMixer) and decentralized, optional privacy through sigma protocols - a form of a zero-knowledge proof. History has demonstrated that human greed and the desire for power can lead to inequitable and unjust societies. Government authorities are either elected, appointed, or self-appointed, depending on the political landscape of a country. Even in countries where officials are elected, there is no guarantee that their intentions are fair and just. Using the trustless systems that blockchain can provide, there is an opportunity to create a financial system where people do not have to trust centralized banks and governments with the security of their assets and investments (while still observing regulatory requirements). A blockchain like Ergo allows for a balance whereby tooling can be constructed for optional privacy applications. In countries where citizens are repressed and offered very few freedoms, blockchain privacy may be the vehicle that greatly improves, or saves, their lives. As was mentioned earlier in this article: You may not need privacy until suddenly you do.

Part of Ergo’s ethos is that privacy is a fundamental human right. Identity and financial privacy can, in severe circumstances, mean life or death for people in certain parts of the world. Blockchain privacy gives people a sense of anonymity, privacy and security with their funds.

For more information on how to protect your assets, please see the following video from the 2022 Ergo Summit on Privacy and Security (3:30-6:03).

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