The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization that champions digital rights, has called on San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase to improve its transparency in handling authorities’ requests for private financial data.
In a post on the EFF’s website, the organization said it’s increasingly concerned “that payment processors are being asked to turn over information on their customers,” without a mechanism for the public to know about these requests. As such, it’s calling on Coinbase “to start releasing regular transparency reports that provide insight into how many government requests for information it receives, and how it deals with them.”
In the post, the EFF pointed out that choosing to comply or reject government requests for private financial information can “have a huge impact on what types of speech can thrive online.” The organization added:
- Cryptocurrency exchanges should especially understand the importance of the privacy of this information, as their users tend to prize both the cash-like anonymity of cryptocurrency, and its inherent resistance to censorship.
Providing this type of accountability, the non-profit says, is important when it comes to financial data as it can be “turned over with a subpoena, a 314 (a) request, or a National Security Letter” without a review from a judge being required before being sent to the financial service provider.
The EFF pointed to the U.S. v. Gratkowski case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that law enforcement does not need to get a warrant to obtain financial transaction data from a cryptocurrency exchange. In the case, the exchange was Coinbase itself.
In that case, the EFF wrote, the court relied on the third-party doctrine, which holds that when people use services such as banks they lose their reasonable expectation of privacy in the information they turn over to the service. To the EFF this is wrong in a “world where everyone navigates through their daily life by relying on services such as email that provide third parties with access to sensitive information.
It pointed to Coinbase rival Kraken as an example, as it releases an annual transparency report:
A transparency report from Coinbase, the EFF defends, would help it stand up for its users and use its influence to show others that transparency reports “are an industry standard for all cryptocurrency exchanges.”
Exchanges publishing these reports would “show whether companies are living up to their promises to protect user privacy,” while providing details in government surveillance activities.
As CryptoGlobe reported, the EFF has earlier this year filed a motion to quash Kraken’s attempt to reveal the identity of anonymous former employees posting on workplace review site Glassdoor.
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