In 2017, D’Angelo Russell attempted to prank his teammate Nick Young by recording him when he was talking about cheating on his fiancee. Naturally the video leaked; Iggy Azalea left Young and Russell’s teammates started to shun him. Russell was not an authority in the incident, he was a participant. Despite his lack of ability to enforce what might be considered “justice” in this scenario, his veillance provided information that led to consequences. Azalea used the information that Russell created to enforce her sense of justice.
Whenever I mention [sousveillance](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sousveillance#:\~:text=Sousveillance%20(%2Fsu%CB%90%CB%88v,wearable%20or%20portable%20personal%20technologies.), people think that I am making it up. I’m not. It’s a real term and like many other concepts in science and technology studies makes a ton of sense once you understand it. By defining the term, we are able to discuss it working from a shared understanding.
Sousveillance is most often associated with wearable technologies that allow citizens to record their interaction with authorities. I posit that the veillance that we participate in and benefit from in online communities is being pioneered at scale in crypto communities. While this type of veillance does not fall into the common definition that relies on wearables, it is certainly not sur-veillance when NFTethics tweets about a lot of VCs buying Moonbirds.
Surveillance is to view from above. Sousveillance is to view from below. Metaveillance is the watching of the watchers or the veillance of veillance — it identifies who and what is watching and the depth or range of their access.
Since we don’t have strict legal guidelines for much of what we are doing on-chain, we lack a sense of regulation. Due to the public nature of our on-chain behaviors, however, veillance is highly possible. Public blockchain explorers allow citizens to track the moves of known entities on-chain. While we lack official authorities to use this veillance to enforce regulations, we as community members are more empowered than ever to act on shared veillance as sovereign individuals.
What will decentralized veillance look like and are we experiencing it now?
Sousveillance suggests a distrust in the surveyors. It’s not quite to the level of inverse surveillance — agenda driven sousveillance — but it still suggests a lack of faith or trust in the watchers. Surveyors, due to their granted authority, have an important say in the truth of what happened. Those with access to information and enforcement can inflict meaningful consequences upon those with less access to information.
Trusting any one single surveyor is highly antithetical to the ethos of crypto and web3. It would be more palatable to have a variety of trusted sources that can act as surveyors and provide both redundancy and varying perspectives.
In this type of system, many oracles or surveyors are respected and trusted. The respect or trust given to these oracles exists on a spectrum — and likely on a spectrum for each individual at a specific point in time. The value that you give to the New York Times’ coverage of a local issue is likely different than their coverage of an issue that goes against their editorial bias.
Next I want to explore the state of decentralized regulation and decentralized veillance in crypto. We’ll start with social implementations and then move to technical implementations.
NFTethics is one of the most well known (and in my personal opinion least respected) surveyors of NFT actor behavior. The account hunts down perceived bad actors or at least attempts to provide insights to the behind the scenes of various NFT projects and their participants.
zachxbt is probably the most well respected surveyor in crypto. If you do something malicious on-chain you better be looking over your shoulder for zach. Through a mix of on and off-chain analysis, zach identifies scammers and bad actors in the space. I highly recommend reviewing his work.
web3 is going just great is an account and media syndicate run by Molly White. Many of the veillance or publication of veillance performed by web3 is going just great is agenda driven. It’s an almost anti-crypto media outlet that gathers information about actors and mishaps.
This account and media outlet has been catching a lot of negative attention from crypto proponents but I want to take a moment to shout out Molly for being incredibly based.
She may be anti-crypto and she may hold values that differ from yours, but she is a highly effective communicator and operator. She is likely more technical than you (especially if you’ve gotten this far reading my gibberish lol) and she is providing an important service to the crypto and extended community around the incidents in web3 that are not going great.
Swinging back to technical implementations, we have a couple things to explore. The first one is an existing implementation and the second one is conceptual.
Token lists are a common way to determine the authenticity of a token on a decentralized exchange. Anyone can create a liquidity pool and anyone could swap in a malicious pool. Token lists create a way for us to limit the pools presented to us on a DEX.
Various sources of truth are offered. Each source maintains its own processes for data upkeep and receive their own levels of respect and trust from individuals. Once a token is added to the list, it becomes available to individuals that trust the list. Individuals retain permission to override lists, but communal recognition of a token address and list placement increases likelihood of token usage.
I’m out of my league on this one but I’m gonna swing at it anyway.
Twitter’s foray into crypto has been enjoyable — from the sidelines. As a user, it leaves a lot to be desired. One of the headline features allows users to link their wallet to their account and to display an NFT as their pfp. Twitter’s implementation of this feature is highly dependent on OpenSea’s API. Many of us would like to decrease reliance on OpenSea — creating a variety of redundant and differing providers. These providers might compete for interactivity (LOOKS vs. OpenSea) or as data providers. In this case, I am focused on data access. Data providers act as oracles — they provide a source of truth for various viewers.
Wouldn’t Twitters implementation of NFT pfps be stronger with redundant data sourcing that allowed for a variety of interpretations of that data? Should “stolen” NFTs be available for use as a profile photo? Should OpenSea or Twitter be the authority on that?
More layers of verification, more oracles, more transparency — this is how we decentralize veillance.
It’s always about the meta — the watching of watching and the measuring of measuring. Citizens can band together to create new standards and citizens can then tear those down in their iterative process. Reject rejections and question the questioners. Truth is subjective.