CBDCs could be ‘easily weaponized’ to spy on US citizens: Congressman

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United States Congressman Tom Emmer believes the launch of programmable central bank digital currency (CBDC) in the country could strip American citizens of their financial privacy.

Speaking at the Cato Institute, a Washington DC-based libertarian think tank on Mar. 9, Emmer explained that the programmable CBDC would be “easily weaponized” as a spying tool to “choke out politically unpopular activity,” among other things:

As the federal government seeks to maintain and expand financial control to which it has grown accustomed, the idea of the central bank digital currency has gained traction within the institutions of power in the United States as a government-controlled programmable money that can be easily weaponized into a surveillance tool.”

The Minnesota Representative introduced the CBDC Anti-Surveillance Act on Feb. 22 to halt the progress of The Digital Dollar Project, which has seen considerable developments in how it would be used since the second version of its whitepaper was released in mid-January.

“Recent actions from the Biden Administration make it clear that they are not only itching to create a digital dollar but they are willing to trade Americans’ right to financial privacy for the surveillance-style CBDC,” he added.

Emmer suggested that the blockchain-enabled “ownership economy” is “threatening” many bureaucrats in Washington DC, as it “shifts economic power from centralized institutions back into the hands of the people.”

While the latest Federal Reserve discussion paper explained that it would only issue the CBDC in the context of “broad public and cross-governmental support,” Emmer and many others are concerned with the potential dangers that could ensue:

“It not only tracks transaction level data down to the individual user but also the ability to program the CBDC to choke out politically unpopular activity.”

Related: ‘Programmable money should terrify you’ — Layah Heilpern

Emmer also argued that decentralized cryptocurrencies can serve as a solution to the mismanagement of the U.S. monetary system and restore many of the “American values” that led the nation to become an economic powerhouse in the 20th century — privacy, individual sovereignty and free markets.

He added that by even experimenting with CBDCs, the U.S. is going against these values:

“Nothing could be more dangerous than adhering to a manufactured sense of urgency like this and ultimately developing a CBDC that is not open, permissionless and private.”