The following statement can be attributed to Lia Holland (she/they), Campaigns & Communications Director at Fight for the Future.
We write in response to the request for comments on the responsible development of digital assets, including but not limited to the digital dollar aka a Central Bank Digital Currency, stablecoins, and cryptocurrencies. We believe all technology should be used to uplift and empower marginalized communities, rather than oppress and exploit them. If digital assets are to be adopted in the future then it must be done right. To the greatest extent possible and for the sake of our democracy, we must ensure that emerging technologies protect agency, human rights, and freedoms for users in a world that has taken so much away.
As the agency studies the adoption and development of digital assets pursuant to Executive Order 14067 of March 9, 2022, it is essential that it considers the importance of choice, equity, privacy, and inclusion. Such values must carry extra weight in today’s post-Roe environment where people who can get pregnant are being stripped of their agency and rights. These technologies should work to ensure financial privacy and inclusion for users rather than contribute to the prevailing surveillance and control regime. Strong encryption is crucial to ensuring safety in the digital world, and must be utilized to the greatest extent possible in the design of any digital assets developed by the US government. Users should be sure that their right to privacy will be protected and not have to worry about the possibility of surveillance backdoors in their wallets.
In the United States, nearly one out of every four residents is either unbanked or underbanked. These overwhelmingly low income, young, mostly Black and Hispanic people face huge costs in terms of both high fees and time when they try to perform even the simplest financial transaction, like cashing a paycheck. Underbanked people are forced to rely on predatory services that not only charge exorbitant fees, but also have a history of discriminating against frontline communities. If these trends continue, the median Black household will have zero wealth by 2053. In developing digital assets, the government must ensure that it does not repeat previous mistakes and instead work to bridge the digital and financial divides that currently exclude marginalized people.
It is crucial that efforts to advance digital assets center the needs of marginalized people, not surveil them. In our current ecosystem, marginalized people face systemic and discriminatory surveillance from both corporations and law enforcement. We should be aiming to enhance privacy and freedom, departing from the harmful violations of megacorporations and financial systems. The right of people in the US to opt-out of financial surveillance from credit card companies and other predatory entities by using cash has long been enshrined in law. Digital assets should replicate these advantages to the greatest extent possible with particular focus on protecting privacy, anonymity, permissionlessness, and accessibility for all. Such technology must center the interests of everyday people, not Big Tech or Big Banks. Regulation of digital assets should not be tailored to benefit abusive corporations or future authoritarian regimes at the expense of the public interest.
While digital assets can offer innovative solutions to financial exclusion, censorship, surveillance, access, and ownership, we cannot overstate the threat they pose as a government-backed tool for surveillance, manipulation, and exclusion. If these emerging technologies are adopted and developed by the US government, they must be anchored in justice, privacy, free expression, and civil liberties.