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  1. Wealth
June 12, 2013

From Bitcoin Babies to PRISM: Is Our Dependence on Technology Harming Us?

By Spear's

As the world welcomes the first ever Bitbaby born through IVF treatment paid for with Bitcoins Sophie Mazzier contemplates our reliance on technology and how vulnerable it makes us

Yesterday’s news heralding the birth of the first ‘Bitbaby’ (born through IVF treatment and paid for with ‘bitcoins’) led me to marvel, yet again, at the wonders of modern technology (both medical and financial). 

Aside from the fact that its acceptance as a currency is by no means universal, (and I await with eager anticipation news that HMRC will accept payment of my tax liability with bitcoins, or that the UKBA will allow wealthy foreign entrepreneurs to deposit £1m, £5m or even £10m worth of bitcoins to secure investor visas for example) I paused to consider the flipside of the bitcoin of such technological leaps and bounds, and realised quite how vulnerable we have become in our reliance on it.

Meet the world’s first Bitcoin baby

For wealthy private individuals, my bet is that privacy ranks near, if not at the top, of their key requirements. Over the last 24 hours, many column inches and hours of live broadcast have described the furore caused in the USA by Edward Snowden’s revelation that Big Brother really is watching you.

And not just that, he could also check out what you search for via Google and which weird cat videos you have downloaded from YouTube (I speak for myself here). And as we know from security breaches on this side of the rippling pond — mentioning no names of course — the biggest risk to a person’s privacy is not intelligence agencies, Chinese hackers, Wikileaks or faceless technology, but the voluntary use of social media, such as your Facebook page and those of your family and friends.  

Not so long ago, a certain spy chief found his own spouse’s Facebook page was broadcasting their holiday destination (and his choice of swimwear) to the world. And that was before Google Glass invented a means for the truly self-obsessed to record their entire day for posterity or the edification of others. 
Needless to say, breaches of confidentiality which jeopardise our nation’s security and those who protect us are terrifying. For the internationally wealthy, leakage of information not only puts their wealth and business plans at risk, but there is always the threat of personal danger, through kidnap attempts. It seems to me that the underlying issue is not just potential breaches of privacy, but also more worryingly whether governments themselves have broken the laws on data protection which they enacted.  
While there is little a private client adviser can do to protect their clients’ physical security or guard them against unlawful snooping, in terms of personal data, nothing beats the odd reminder to the family to double-check their privacy settings and consider sharing slightly less – doubtless to a chorus of groans from their perma-online teenage children. 

For those still worrying about data leakage, I wonder whether the answer is to go back to pen and ink (maybe even invisible ink) and good old fashioned one-to-one conversations.

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Sophie Mazzier is Counsel at private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP


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