Learn about Bitcoin
Take custody of your Bitcoin offline and secure your independence against a desperate state.
Freedom must never be taken for granted. A healthy degree of trust keeps society running smoothly, but when that trust breaks down, we need to know how to protect our rights and secure our assets independently.
When it comes to protecting and managing your money, the convenience of entrusting full custody to a bank comes at the cost of knowing that they will always act in line with the state. If the state becomes corrupt, needs to prop up their failing currency, or begins sanctioning peaceful protestors with emergency measures — as happened in Canada last week — your money could be seized without so much as a warrant.
Without direct control of your money, years of working and saving can be taken from you in an instant. Bitcoin is a more transparent, predictable way to protect your wealth or raise money for a cause, as long as it’s done right. To be free to defend your rights in the 21st century, you must first secure custody of your money.
Governments control the value of fiat money by controlling its supply. Through banks, they also control who has access to that money. How much this bothers you will depend on how much you trust them to act in your favor, or how much bitcoin you have.
As a Czech company, we know just how quickly a government can turn against its citizens, and in the digital age it’s only amplified. Deploying indiscriminate financial sanctions against one’s own citizens is one of the most alarming things a government can do. Left unchecked, it could allow them to pressure political rivals by confiscating assets or, scared of insurrection, they could freeze protestors’ bank accounts by denouncing them as terrorists. Oh wait.
Under surveillance culture, even peaceful assembly can now result in financial sanctions against participants. Cutting off access to money is one of the easiest ways to force compliance, as it also prevents access to basic rights like food, water and shelter. Bitcoin is the only backup when tyranny comes to town.
It is important to understand that this is exactly what Bitcoin was made for. It was designed in a way that no entity can deny the right of another to send a transaction or ask for payment. In a situation where democratic governments start cutting off access to money, using Bitcoin is the only way to stay financially secure.
In comparison, the incoming wave of government-led central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are designed to restrict payments in a variety of different ways, such as granting social credit scores that regulate access to certain goods and services, or dictating what can be sold and even at what price. Money is the instrument of choice for imposing control over citizens, and Bitcoin is the only money that cannot be corrupted by political influence.
Nothing can ever be certain about the state of the world tomorrow. Bitcoin is insurance against a desperate state, inflating costs of living, and much more. When the actions of the government begin to restrict individual freedoms, Bitcoin gives people an unstoppable alternative.
Anyone can receive donations in Bitcoin, but some causes may be more sensitive than others. Protecting the identities of organizers, donors and recipients should be a priority. This section covers some guidelines for setting up a new collection fund.
Consider the risks
Before creating a new fundraiser, make sure you carefully consider whether it may draw unwanted attention and how to take steps to protect your privacy.
Privacy can always be increased by using Trezor Suite with Tor enabled, to mask your internet connection while you set up and manage donation accounts. More hardcore options also exist, such as Tails OS, VPNs, connecting over unmonitored public networks, using designated hardware bought for cash, and so on, but the most effective way to protect donations is to ensure the keys are unique and stored offline.
Trezor wallets use secure hardware random number generators to make unique keys, and keep them permanently isolated offline, so your funds are kept safe in your custody. You may also choose to CoinJoin donations to better resist surveillance and censorship, a feature soon coming to Trezor Suite.
Nowadays, it is better to keep social media support for a fundraiser separate from your personal accounts, because if the cause you are supporting raises controversy, your personal details could be leaked or your finances frozen.
While there is no way to prevent the addresses you use from being watched, there is also no way to know who owns an address unless it becomes to the activity of a previously identified person. Blockchain analysis companies track wallets in order to sell intelligence to government agencies, so any link between you and the donations could lead to theft, intimidation or forfeiture.
Setting up a donation wallet
When coordinating a fundraiser, there is no need to use a personal wallet. Creating a clean wallet for donations by generating a new seed on a wiped Trezor will ensure all addresses are distinct and the only incoming transactions come from donors. Make sure you have a safe backup of any preexisting funds before wiping a device for this purpose.
Start in minutes with this step-by-step guide by privacy researcher Sun Knudsen:
A benefit of creating a dedicated seed with a Trezor is that you can use Shamir backup to make it more resilient to physical attacks. Shamir backup is a system that creates multiple recovery shares that unlocks the wallet when all shares are combined together. These shares can be spread across multiple locations and people to create a more trustworthy and robust custody model.
Trezor wallets can also be used in multisignature setups, where several different people each hold a key and a certain number of them must be present to sign transactions, sharing the burden of responsibility.
For small initiatives with only one organizer where the recovery seed and keys will not be shared, donation accounts could be created using the same seed as an existing personal wallet, but any personal funds should be kept isolated securely behind a hidden passphrase-protected wallet. Again, Shamir backup can be used here to prevent your backup from being seized.
Some bitcoin donations made to the recent protests in Canada were intercepted, because the government was able to target the services that were managing the donations, as well as any individuals organizing separate donations. Trusting custody to a third-party exposed to government pressure is a bad way to manage funds donated to a protest. Funds held in a hardware wallet can not be seized.
Another mistake some activists made was revealing their identities as custodians of the donated bitcoin funds. Although this helped raise awareness, it also made them a target for sanctions. Under the Emergency Act imposed by the government, their personal accounts could be frozen and access to the bitcoin could be ordered by the courts. To protect themselves, they changed to a different custody model.
While the measures that led to these incidents seem drastic, they pose a real risk, no matter where you live. Being identifiable as the coordinator of a fundraiser makes you the weakest link in those funds’ security. When a government shows it is capable of targeting its own citizens, taking donations in bitcoin must be done securely and privately, and communicated anonymously.
Our physical and digital identities are so entwined that true anonymity is impossible. We don’t need to be completely anonymous to protect ourselves, but we must be more careful with our data. The math keeping your bitcoin secure doesn’t submit to anyone, but that won’t be much consolation if you find yourself under duress.
Trezor devices only have one purpose: to secure your funds. Moving your bitcoin off centralized services and into self-custody ensures only you have control of your money. Strategic Shamir backups, passphrases and multisignature schemes can make it impossible for an aggressor to access your funds but none of that matters if you leave yourself vulnerable.
When your money is controlled by the state, access to it is never guaranteed. Even if it were, your savings will still devalue thanks to runaway inflation. Bitcoin is money that everyone can own and secure independently using a hardware wallet. It is money that doesn’t lose value from a constantly increasing supply.
While GoFundMe and other centralized fundraising platforms have shown they are easily swayed by political pressure, Bitcoin is apolitical. As the state undermines the freedom of speech, Bitcoin fights back with freedom of money.
Overnight seizure of private assets in response to a protest is not expected in an established democracy. Such abuse of power is usually attributed to overtly totalitarian regimes, but this week’s events have shown that it can happen anywhere. Few understand how attractive Bitcoin becomes as these infringements on individual rights continue. Those who do, keep it in self-custody.