Cumbria University will allow certain students to pay for their tuition in bitcoin. Bitcoin is a digital currency that was previously associated with guns and drugs.
The students who are targeted probably do not have Bitcoin readily available and will need to purchase it to pay for their tuition. This move can be seen more as a publicity stunt rather than an actual convenience.
Cumbria may be jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon, but there are other signs that digital currency will remain. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, stated in November that there was no reason to regulate bitcoin. He also said that virtual currencies were more efficient and secure payment systems.
BTMs are gaining popularity as they allow users to deposit normal currency and then receive bitcoin via an app on their mobile phones. Merrill Lynch has released a report that predicts that Bitcoin will be a common electronic payment method and account for 10 percent of all online electronic transactions.
Not everyone agrees. China’s Central Bank has, for instance, decided that Chinese financial institutes should not accept Bitcoin. It is to protect the rights of the general public, prevent money laundering, and maintain financial stability. Other countries like Thailand and Norway also have a skeptical position.
Big Brother is not watching you
Bitcoin is a technology, similar to Twitter during the Arab Spring or mobile phones in Africa that gives power back to the people. It is likely that it will be accepted by the public as much as traditional currencies. Cryptocurrencies are a good option for the society because they offer privacy, low transaction fees, and no profit-making fat-cat banks.
This privacy and convenience come at a price. The online worlds that deal with child pornography , drug trading, and other illegal activities are already a huge problem for society. The US authorities shut down Silk Road in January 2014, but rivals quickly took its place. Although there are many legitimate uses for cryptocurrency, the use of it to purchase illegal goods is threatening its future as a mainstream currency.
In a world in which anyone can anonymously trade anything using bitcoin, drug barons could buy and sell cars, houses, guns and entire streets without any regulation, taxation or accountability. Criminals do not need to worry about laundering money because bitcoin is already clean.
Privacy and accountability: a balance
No one wants a world where corporations like Google and Amazon track our spending habits, mine them and continue to spam us. Fewer still are comfortable with the idea that NSA could collect, store and analyse our emails at any time. Regulation is important, but it’s not the only thing. In a world where there is no accountability for spending, we are left without taxation.
We must find a way to balance the competing needs of privacy and security in society. The ability of computers to store and produce information about our daily lives will not go away. It raises a very difficult question. What kind of freedoms are appropriate for people?