Can Grandmas Be Bitcoin Cypherpunks? Q&A With Jameson Lopp

In October 2017, a SWAT team showed up at Jameson Lopp’s house in North Carolina,  allegedly because of a fake complaint called in by someone angered by a tweet. So Lopp posted a video of himself firing an AR-15 and then embarked on a journey to disappear in the physical world—unreachable by his enemies and far from the prying eyes of the surveillance state.

Lopp had been obsessed with privacy long before the swatting. He’s a throwback to the long-bearded mathematicians and cypherpunks of the 1990s who believed that recent breakthroughs in cryptography could enable levels of personal freedom and privacy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Many ideas and technological breakthroughs from the cypherpunk movement were eventually folded into bitcoin. Lopp even calls himself a “professional cypherpunk,” carrying on the movement’s legacy.

In keeping with the cypherpunk ethos, Casa, the company Lopp co-founded, is trying to make it easier for people to hold custody of their own bitcoin instead of storing their money on third-party exchanges, where regulators can impose arbitrary rules. 

After the SWAT raid, Lopp changed his phone number, set up LLCs to hide his true name and address, encrypted his communications, and even bought a decoy house to serve as a physical mailing address, which he needed to satisfy the DMV’s requirement for a drivers license. To check his work, he hired private investigators to tail him. 

“We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems,” wrote Eric Hughes in his 1993 manifesto. “We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write.”

Jameson Lopp is an enigmatic privacy obsessive fighting to keep that dream alive.

Photos: Paul Kitagaki Jr./ZUMA Press/Newscom

Music: “Brotherhood” by Young Rich Pixies via Artlist; “2050” by Cyber Runner via Artlist

  • Video Editor: Adam Czarnecki
  • Video Editor: Justin Zuckerman
  • Audio Production: Ian Keyser