A month after complaining its founders were “doxxed,” the company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club is flipping the script on its customers.
On a mysterious new website, Yuga Labs is asking users to provide sensitive personal information – everything from passport numbers to countries of residence – for a shot at access to the company’s next big venture.
The relatively sparse site, “somethingisbrewing.xyz,” is designed as a kind of tease; Yuga Labs won’t say exactly what it’s up to.
Clicking the “register” button will direct you to another site called Blockpass, which runs identity verification processes for crypto services. Here, you’ll need to provide your passport, your national ID or your driver’s license, along with proof of residence. There’s also a list of banned countries: If you live in China, Russia, Cuba, Iran or any of 28 other blacklisted nations, you’re out of luck.
On Twitter, the company described the new project as a collaboration with the Hong Kong-based crypto company Animoca Brands, which was recently valued at around $5 billion. Yuga Labs was also recently valued at around $5 billion on the strength of the Bored Ape Yacht Club – now far and away the most successful non-fungible token (NFT) collection in crypto.
The request isn’t an issue in and of itself. The irony is that Yuga Labs has been embroiled in a month-long controversy around privacy norms in crypto, advocating strongly for the position that anonymity should be respected at nearly all costs.
Know your ape?
Last month, Buzzfeed News revealed the identities of Yuga Labs’ core founders, Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow, previously known only by the pseudonyms “Gargamel” and “Gordon Goner.” The reporter Katie Notopoulos dug up the information in publicly available business records. (Solano had incorporated the company under his own name.)
“Got doxxed against my will,” tweeted Aronow after the Buzzfeed article went up. “Oh well.”
Crypto enthusiasts and privacy advocates tended to see it that way, too. On the other hand, reporters from traditional media outlets mostly saw it as an extremely normal act of business journalism. I wrote an op-ed to this effect; their names were in public documents, and a reporter dug them up. It is, I and others argued, in the public’s interest to know who’s at the helm of this $5 billion enterprise.
And yet now, after making all this fuss, here they are, asking for your personal information. Oh, and they’ll take a headshot, too.
Yuga Labs may have no choice but to require this information, since financial regulations require companies to collect it in many circumstances.
The culture of crypto values anonymity, but even more than that, it values being early. Yuga Labs’ implicit bet is that the desire to get in early on the next Bored Ape Yacht Club will override the messiness of these KYC (know your customer) requirements.
“We don’t like KYCs either,” the firm wrote on Twitter, “but we think you’re going to want to be a part of this.”
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