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Who needs privacy? I've got nothing to hide!

Jun 3, 2017

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on bitcoin usability, privacy, and security. Part 1, which discusses the tradeoffs inherent in using bitcoin, can be found here.

Who needs privacy? When we think of privacy, we think of keeping secrets from others. You often hear people claim "I don't need privacy, because I have nothing to hide!" And only people who have done something wrong have a reason to keep secrets. Right?

What most people don't realize is that privacy, especially financial privacy, is actually a worthwhile and important goal, even if you've done nothing wrong. So if privacy seekers aren't trying to hide something bad, what are they protecting? When you stop to think about it, most personal information, no matter how innocuous, has the ability to do harm in the hands of the wrong individual.

For example, let’s look at something financial that many people choose to keep private: their annual salary. Some people are open about how much money they make, but the majority of us keep it a secret, even though there is nothing inherently negative about this information. One possible reason for this is the fact that there is no right answer to the question “How much do you make?”

What we mean by the “right answer” is that no matter the situation, your salary will most likely be higher or lower than expected by the question-asker; and in both cases, there is the potential for negative consequences. Revealing a salary that is lower than expected could result in a low-ball job offer, or maybe your friends will think twice about inviting you on that expensive getaway. Stating you have a salary that is higher than expected could result in family members asking for money, or co-workers feeling jealous and harboring resentment.

In the unlikely event that your answer is exactly as expected, having your salary known still sets you up to be judged on your financial decisions. Can he really afford that new car? Why doesn’t she send her children to private school? Isn’t their house a little big for their budget? As you can see, there really is no "right answer," and you can imagine similar pitfalls if you were to not only reveal how much money you have, but also what you do with it.

And so we come to the far-reaching benefit of privacy: Avoiding the inevitable disapproval of others. No matter what you do, somebody, somewhere will disapprove, and this can complicate your life, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. No matter what you answer, you just can't win, so why answer at all?

Here at breadwallet, we believe that all individuals have the right to financial privacy without suspicion or question. In fact, we intentionally designed our app to preserve our users' privacy like no other, by preventing even ourselves from observing our users' financial activity.

For those of you who use our product, you may be familiar with the somewhat inconvenient “syncing” notification when you open your wallet. When your wallet is "syncing," it is actually talking directly to the bitcoin network, and since your app is not going through us, it is impossible for us to know what you do with your money.

It is also impossible for us to use our servers to somehow speed up the process, which is why syncing can take some time if you haven't opened the app in a while. Many other services sacrifice their users' privacy and security to maximize convenience, but that's a sacrifice we're not willing to make. We are able to offer the ideal balance between convenience and privacy, in a way that other wallets can't.

In this day and age, with the popularity of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, it's easy to get comfortable with sharing your life with others and forget that privacy is important. We make it easy for all our users to maintain their financial privacy, whether they think they need to or not. Here is where we would normally say something along the lines of "If you value your financial privacy, use breadwallet!" But we know you value your privacy, because after reading this article, how could you not?

In part 3 of our series, we’ll explore bitcoin security, and show how critically important it is to control your own private keys.


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