In recent times, governments around the world have charted a new course for cryptocurrency regulation, and it’s one that seeks to exclude privacy-focused cryptocurrency. Moving away from the complete banning of digital currencies, these governments are tackling two core issues: protecting investors and traders, and making sure that cryptocurrencies avoid becoming breeding grounds for criminals.
This trend has sparked many regulatory requirements, from anti-money laundering rules to KYCs. But as these governments intensify their regulations, we must ask ourselves what is the future of privacy-focused cryptocurrencies geared toward maintaining user privacy to the core?
Anonymous Coins: Living Up to Their Names
In its developmental stages, Bitcoin had earned a name as a cryptocurrency that provides complete anonymity to its users, drawing many privacy lovers to it. Today, that notion has changed completely. Though it might not be possible to trace transactions made on the Bitcoin blockchain to a specific identity, other details, including location and amount of transactions, are visible. And the fact that linking your identity to the blockchain will expose your transactions to the public ledger shows that, after all, the world’s largest and most popular cryptocurrency isn’t completely anonymous. In turn, privacy coins have come to save the day.
Beginning its journey in 2014 as Xcoin and later Darkcoin, Dash is one of the most popular privacy-focused coins in the cryptosphere. Its privacy feature PrivateSend, previously called Darksend relies on the CoinJoin mechanism of boxing-up transactions and making them difficult to identify participants of a particular transaction
Another popular privacy coin is Monero. Developed through the CryptoNight Proof of Work protocol, Monero has risen to be one of the best privacy coins in existence today. Transaction sources and destinations are untraceable in Monero. For example, to escape scrutiny from authorities, the WannaCry ransomware hackers reportedly converted their hoard to Monero. Additionally, after the closure of the darknet marketplace AlphaBay, authorities reported that they could not identify the amount of Monero on the platform, cementing the privacy coin as a good place not just for privacy-oriented individuals, but as a hiding place for some criminals.
Other privacy coins have sprung up and gained popularity as well, including Zcash, PIVX, Navcoin, Verge, among others. For proponents of the privacy coin, cryptocurrencies should be able to help privacy-oriented people conduct their financial transactions without prying eyes. Providing that infrastructure shouldn’t be a headache. But unfortunately for many, governments do not think so.
Government Crackdown on Privacy Coins
Though there has not been a comprehensive regulatory oversight on cryptocurrencies in general, many governments are devising ways of preventing criminals from using these digital currencies as their go-to financial system. These governments are also making sure that traders and investors in this space pay tax.
But for privacy coins, the story is not that favorable even though many authorities haven’t turned their attention to the anon coin sector. In a written testimony in June this year, Deputy Assistant Director of Office of Investigations at the US Secret Service Robert Novy recommended that privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero and Zcash should be regulated to prevent fraud. In May, Japan’s Financial Services Agency put pressure on anonymous cryptocurrencies, gingering crypto exchanges like Coincheck, a Japanese-based cryptocurrency exchange to announce its delisting of privacy coins, including the likes of Augur, Monero, Dash, and ZCash. The reason? Coins that grant a high level of anonymity might be used for money laundering activities according to the FSA.
But can Privacy-Focused Coins be Stopped by Governments?
Government regulation would surely hamper the growth of privacy coins, but not completely. One specific area that would be hard hit is the ability to exchange these coins for fiat or other cryptocurrencies. However, as the cryptocurrency space grows, privacy would be an integral part of this sector, and privacy coins might potentially rule that space.
As Chief Marketing Officer for Dash Fernando Gutierrez puts it,
There are many legitimate reasons to want privacy in the cryptocurrency space and there is the obvious consideration about privacy being a human right but then there is the huge issue of security. Having financial information public or semi-public is extremely dangerous. The only way to provide security for the average user is to allow them to keep some information private.
When cryptocurrencies find their way into the mainstream and become a true internet money as many predict, privacy coins would be the order of the day for people who don’t want to have a public ledger of their everyday transactions. When the time comes, governments might have to comply themselves and find ways to get their income taxes or prevent people from using them for money laundering, terrorist financing, and other fraudulent activities.