The sanctions imposed by the United States government on Tornado Cash have reignited a public debate on privacy. For many in the relatively young crypto community, such an intervention by the federal government seems groundbreaking. However, tussles between the private sector and the state on the issue of privacy are far from new and can provide compelling insights on what we might expect next for privacy in the crypto industry.
In the 1990s, Phil Zimmermann released Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), one of the first openly available public-key cryptography applications that featured end-to-end (E2E) encryption. Zimmerman’s creation prompted a criminal investigation that was eventually dropped, resulting in federal court decisions that protect encryption under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. This clash on personal privacy became dubbed the