Why the state’s monopoly on identity is more dangerous than Google, Facebook and Microsoft
This is a response to The Reboot’s article, which discusses the dangers of perpetual tracking by Google, Facebook and Microsoft: https://thereboot.com/why-we-should-end-the-data-economy/
While the tracking by Google, Facebook and Microsoft is definitely disturbing and can even put people in danger, the state’s data economy is even worse. Many people don’t talk about this, even though it affects millions of people’s daily lives.
The state has a monopoly on identity and an obsession with tracking people from birth certificate to death certificate. It creates disproportionate and harmful KYC regulations which actively exclude people without government-issued ID from necessary services, including work, finances, housing and healthcare and even small things like online shopping, receiving mail, buying a sim card or visiting the gym or library.
You can choose to not use Google, Facebook, Windows or stock Android, and use alternatives such as DuckDuckGo, Mastodon, Linux and custom roms. There are also ways to protect your privacy, such as leaving your phone at home, using a burner phone outside, using pseudonyms and not publicly posting photos of yourself online.
However, when the state forces the vast majority of employers, landlords and hospitals to ask for government ID, there are only a few gray market alternatives left (e.g. under the table work, informal rentals for cash, find doctors that accept cash payments or buy imported medicines).
Many people don’t have any government ID (the state refuses to print it for them) or can’t show ID for safety reasons (e.g. they are a victim of abuse and don’t want to be tracked by their abuser).
The state’s monopoly on identity is a centralized single point of failure — if the state refuses to print an ID card for someone, this person can’t appeal, get help from NGOs or find an alternative way to get ID. Even Flag Theory requires an existing birth certificate or old passport. Even if you can get ID, the name that the state prints on your ID may not be the name you use in real life, and many countries restrict legal name changes, which is harmful for victims of abuse or trauma who want a safe new name.
For a job, only your skills should be relevant. For housing, only your ability to pay rent should be relevant. For healthcare, only your medical condition should be relevant (in fact, it should be against the Hippocratic Oath to deny medical treatment to people without ID, especially if they are paying out-of-pocket in cash).
For authentication or trust purposes, just saying your name, using a password/PIN (e.g. SMS code to pickup mail), cryptographic keypair (such as in Bitcoin), pseudonymous reputation network (e.g. online reviews, vouches from friends) or cash deposits (e.g. for rentals) is enough. Even non-government IDs from Blockchain companies like Bitnation, micronations like Liberland or privacy organizations like Digitalcourage are more accessible than gatekept state ID systems.
Government ID requirements don’t contribute to security or trust. They only disproportionately and unfairly exclude people from services.
If you don’t use Facebook for privacy reasons, you can keep in contact with friends and local events in a different way. If you can’t rent most apartments because the landlord asks for a passport or driver’s license, you are lucky if you can find a room in a shared apartment where your roommates deal with the contract for you and you pay rent to your roommates in cash. One thing can be an inconvenience, one thing can cause homelessness.
An increase in peer-to-peer markets could help people to access necessary services, even without state-issued ID. Peer-to-peer markets need buyers/sellers, a currency and a marketplace. Many buyers and sellers are already here and as more peer-to-peer marketplaces are built, more will join.
The gray market already offers work, housing, healthcare and more without ID, although it can be difficult to find if you don’t know many people or live in a strictly regulated country. It can be easier and quicker to hire a remote freelancer for crypto, rent out your spare room for cash or pay a doctor out-of-pocket instead of dealing with public health insurance. Bureaucracy doesn’t just shut people out of the market, it also takes time and money to fill out forms, deal with months-long wait times, pay extortionate fees and apply for (unnecessary) permission (since the state is based on fraud, coercion and violence, its existence is illegitimate and its permission is unnecessary).
Private and uncensorable cryptocurrencies are vital tools for local and global gray markets. Bitcoin and Monero offer an accessible and safe way to send money globally, locally and online. Unlike banking, credit cards, Paypal and Western Union which require government ID, cryptocurrencies only require a secure cryptographic keypair which anyone can generate with easy-to-use wallet software. The benefits of cryptocurrencies include low fees (can be less than 1 cent), fast confirmation times (can be instant), accessibility and censorship-resistance (no ID or permission needed), privacy (especially if you use Monero), no risk of chargebacks or seizures, and no risk of theft (as long as you don’t show your private key to anyone).
Now we just need to create more free markets that are immune to the state’s monopoly on identity, invisible to the state’s data economy, and free for everyone to use.
For more details about how to get started with peer-to-peer free markets, visit: https://anarkiocrypto.medium.com/the-rarely-discussed-dangers-of-kyc-in-crypto-and-daily-life-and-what-you-can-do-about-it-20f2b5894439 and https://bitcoinmagazine.com/business/kyc-free-bitcoin-circular-economies