Major tech companies have received increased scrutiny in 2018, especially when it comes to how they’re handling user data. Internet users are becoming turned off by how much Facebook and Google know about them, and Apple has taken the opportunity to remind everyone they’re more interested in selling hardware than tracking your online activity.
Much like internet users don’t like the idea of Google reading their emails, they also may not like the idea of banks and payment processors tracking all of their financial activities. In this way, it’s interesting to view Bitcoin as the free software version of money. Additionally, it’s important to note how bitcoin can stand to gain from growth in the greater free software movement.
Bitcoin is the Free Software of Money
The world’s financial system works in a manner similar to the giant tech companies when it comes to user privacy and data collection. Additionally, banks may also censor transactions or remove access to one’s bank account in a manner similar to how Twitter or Facebook can censor posts and delete user accounts. Bitcoin was created directly as a permissionless alternative to the proprietary banking system, much like Mastodon was built as an alternative, permissionless social media platform.
Although the dream is not yet fully realized, the idea is that bitcoin users will have complete control over their money (data) and transactions will be end-to-end encrypted. It should be noted that Bitcoin still has an extremely long way to go when it comes to offering strong user privacy, but the theoretical basis for progress does exist.
As the world becomes more digitized, the value of a free software version of money becomes more apparent. For example, the value of a “digital gold” becomes more obvious in a cashless society where assets can be more easily seized or inflated and transactions more easily censored.
If people become interested in protecting their personal data and online privacy, then bitcoin should stand to benefit, as it’s effectively the free software movement’s alternative for online finance.
Purism is the Apple of Free Software
Apple has been making a lot of noise over the past few years in terms of the level of privacy and security they’re claiming to offer their users; however, as a closed-source, proprietary offering, users are unable to explicitly verify that Apple is doing as they say. Purism, on the other hand, offers the verifiable proof to back up their claims as a privacy-respecting hardware and software company through features such as open-source software and hardware kill switches.
Purism was originally founded in 2014 and operates as a social purpose corporation. The company was started on the back of a crowdfunding campaign for a powerful, Linux-based laptop with a focus on the values of the free software movement, and now they’re developing a smartphone with the same philosophy in mind.
The reasons people use bitcoin are the same reasons someone would use a Purism laptop or smartphone: They want to minimize the trust they’re placing in other parties. With Bitcoin, users want to have as much control as possible over their finances. With Purism, users want to have as much control as possible over the hardware and software they use for their computing — they don’t want to simply take Apple’s word for it.
Purism appears to understand this overlap with the cryptocurrency and free software communities, as they have plans to integrate privacy-focused Bitcoin alternative Monero into the Librem 5 and currently accept a variety of cryptocurrencies in their online store.
If a bitcoin user doesn’t trust the banks with their financial data (and with bitcoin their financial data is actual money), then why would they trust the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, or other large tech companies with their personal information or privacy — especially when the reliability of Bitcoin software depends on the integrity of the computing device on which it is run?
The success of Purism as a company should be viewed as bullish for the Bitcoin project as it would indicate growth in the free software movement, which would indicate increased interest in the aforementioned fundamental value propositions of bitcoin as a digital gold or free software version of money.
Choosing to go with Purism is very much a vote of confidence at this point, as many individuals find their currently-available laptops to be overpriced compared to other options on the market. It is also likely many people will be unable to completely switch to the Librem 5 smartphone (at least for now) when it is available next year due to the need for specific apps for work or other aspects of their lives.
Purism doesn’t offer perfect products yet, but they’re putting together a foundational building block for the free software movement, of which bitcoin is also a key part. It would make sense for both Purism and Bitcoin to grow together over time.