Fuel to the fire of financial privacy with fiat currency has been added this week: details of transactions shared between banks and the NSA being made public.
As Bloomberg reports, the US Treasury “said it sets limits while allowing the nation’s intelligence agencies to access reports that banks file on suspicious or large money moves by customers, including information about Americans.”
The concrete figures involved in these “large money moves” however can be as low as US$10,000, and US banks provide details of more than 15 million such transactions per year.
Matthew Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), said that his department’s access to the data, which is retained in the FinCEN database, is strictly for purposes of investigating links to terrorist activities. “Financial data can be some of the most relevant as to how people are connected,” he told Bloomberg, “That’s why it’s vital that we have access.”
The requirement for financial firms to report suspicious activity to the treasury has been around for decades, but as Bloomberg reports, the Obama administration is nevertheless “seeking to assure the U.S. public and allies that they’re not subject to continual surveillance.”
Almost a year to the day since the Snowden debacle, the topic of to what extent government activity can be said to be tantamount to ‘spying’ is still raging in many circles. Digital currency, billed as the ultimate alternative to centralized information collection, has been given a considerable boost among technical circles in light of the revelations, and innovations built on the decentralized model frequently mention ‘anti-spying’ or similar language among their credentials. Just this week, a peer-to-peer email service was launched which seeks to be “completely spy-proof”.
Nonetheless, “whether we like it or not, they [the government] will try to track what we are doing with our bitcoins,” Filip Roose, founder of the Belgian Bitcoin Association, told Cointelegraph about the developments.
“Whether we like it or not, they [the government] will try to track what we are doing with our bitcoins.”
While the flow of bitcoins or any other digital currency is impossible to control or consistently link to individuals, the question of government control of this flow is a perennial one. Roose, however, considers any eventual outcome will not mirror a tightening of obligations on the part of US citizens. “We won't end up with a system where we need to file our own strange activities,” he says.