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What are Surveillance Coins?

Bitcoin as well as most other cryptocurrencies are considered surveillance coins. This is in contrast to Privacy coins, which consist of only a small percentage of cryptocurrencies.

Surveillance Coins


Surveillance coins is a term sometimes used pejoratively to describe cryptocurrencies that have features enabling higher levels of scrutiny, tracking, or control by centralized entities, such as governments or corporations.

The term "Surveillance Coins" is not a standard or widely recognized term in the cryptocurrency industry and is sometimes used pejoratively to describe cryptocurrencies that have features enabling higher levels of scrutiny, tracking, or control by centralized entities, such as governments or corporations. These features could potentially compromise the privacy and anonymity that are often associated with cryptocurrencies.

Characteristics of Surveillance Coins:

  • Centralized Control: These coins may be issued or controlled by a centralized entity that has the ability to monitor transactions and user activities.
  • Lack of Privacy: Unlike privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero or Zcash, these coins do not offer robust privacy features, making it easier to trace transactions back to individual users.
  • Regulatory Compliance: These cryptocurrencies may be designed to comply with regulatory requirements, including Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws, which require the collection of detailed user information.
  • Data Collection: These coins may collect extensive data on user activities, which could be shared with third parties or governmental bodies.
  • Potential for Censorship: The centralized nature of these coins could allow for transactions to be censored or funds to be frozen.


  • Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs): While not typically referred to as "surveillance coins," CBDCs are digital or virtual currencies issued by central banks that could have surveillance capabilities.
  • Corporate Coins: Cryptocurrencies issued by corporations, such as Facebook's proposed Diem (formerly Libra), could also fall into this category if they include extensive tracking and data collection features.

It's worth noting that the term "Surveillance Coins" is often used critically by proponents of decentralized and privacy-focused cryptocurrencies to highlight the potential risks of centralized control and lack of privacy.

However, some users may prefer these types of coins for their compliance with regulatory standards, which could potentially make them more widely accepted by mainstream financial institutions.

Privacy Coins

The Counter to Surveillance Coins Are Privacy Coins

The opposite of  "Surveillance Coins" would be Privacy Coins. Privacy coins are cryptocurrencies designed to provide secure and anonymous transactions. Unlike standard cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which offer a certain level of pseudonymity but still allow for the tracking of transactions on a public ledger, privacy coins aim to obfuscate transaction details to protect users' identities and activities.

Key Features of Privacy Coins:

  • Anonymity: Privacy coins use various cryptographic techniques to ensure that transactions are anonymous and cannot be traced back to individual users.
  • Untraceable Transactions: These coins make it difficult or impossible to trace the origin, destination, and amount involved in transactions.
  • Fungibility: Each unit of the privacy coin is interchangeable with another of the same value, ensuring that coins cannot be tainted by their transaction history.
  • Decentralization: Most privacy coins are decentralized and are not controlled by any single entity, unlike "Surveillance Coins," which may be centrally controlled.
  • Monero (XMR): Uses ring signatures and stealth addresses to obfuscate transaction details.
  • Zcash (ZEC): Utilizes zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) to enable users to transact without revealing any information about the sender, receiver, or transaction amount.
  • Dash (DASH): Offers a "PrivateSend" feature that mixes coins to make transactions untraceable, although it's worth noting that Dash is not a pure privacy coin like Monero or Zcash.

Differences Between Privacy Coins and "Surveillance Coins":

  • Control: Privacy coins are usually decentralized and community-driven, whereas "Surveillance Coins" are often centrally controlled by a government or corporation.
  • Privacy: Privacy coins focus on ensuring user anonymity and privacy, while "Surveillance Coins" may collect user data and allow for transaction tracking.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Privacy coins often face regulatory scrutiny due to their anonymous nature, which could be exploited for illegal activities. In contrast, "Surveillance Coins" are generally designed to comply with regulatory requirements like KYC and AML.
  • User Autonomy: Privacy coins give users more control over their financial privacy but come with the responsibility of secure key management. "Surveillance Coins" may offer less control but could provide some level of consumer protection.
  • Adoption: Privacy coins are generally less widely adopted than more transparent cryptocurrencies, partly due to regulatory concerns. "Surveillance Coins," especially if issued by governments as Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), could see widespread adoption.
  • Transparency: While privacy coins aim for transaction opacity, "Surveillance Coins" aim for transparency, at least to the controlling entity, making them suitable for different use-cases.

Privacy coins offer a level of financial privacy that is not typically available with traditional financial systems or other cryptocurrencies but come with their own set of challenges and risks, including regulatory scrutiny.