Once it was established that a financial-services provider could be found liable for a customer’s source of funds, its responsibilities rapidly expanded. Today, not only do banks need to comply with know your customer (KYC) laws, they’re also expected to know your customer’s customer (KYCC). The idea of currency—money that belongs to its current holder—is gone, replaced by the notion that the provenance of every asset must be traced. Even gold bars can be burdened by their history.

Regulatory outsourcing isn’t limited to banks. Any company with an internet-connected database can be deputized for law enforcement. Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google respond to tens of thousands of government data requests each year. Amazon.com Inc. has been ordered to turn over Echo recordings from its smart home speakers. Large tech companies even provide handy web portals through which law enforcement agencies can request records.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg made the most compelling case against breaking up his company at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, when he pointed out the potential loss of an ally in helping regulators address problems like election interference and misinformation campaigns: “Breaking up these companies wouldn’t make any of these companies better. …You would have those issues, you’d just be much less equipped to deal with them.”

Facebook keeps intimate information on more than 2 billion people in one convenient location. Why would the government break that up?

There’s a conflict here. Technology that was created to promote cooperation between strangers is now being used to control them.

As businesses become increasingly global, they’re torn between a need to comply with U.S. laws and a desire to avoid alienating their own customers. After Edward Snowden’s disclosures of tech companies’ complicity in National Security Agency surveillance, foreign customers fled U.S. tech providers in favor of overseas competitors. More recently, workplace productivity app creator Slack Technologies Inc. came under fire for blocking users in Iran, Cuba, and other countries sanctioned by the U.S. Microsoft Corp.-owned GitHub followed with similar actions soon after.

That tension is creating demand for technology design choices that won’t permit companies to police their customers. Facebook enabled end-to-end encryption for its Messenger app, and Apple Inc. built its iPhones in such a way that even Apple can’t hack into them. When Open Whisper Systems received a subpoena requesting user information for its encrypted messaging app Signal, it was only able to supply the duration of a user’s membership. The company retained no other information about its users.

Tech companies are also starting to use a double-blind information-sharing technique known as homomorphic encryption to collect and analyze data. They get the benefits of massive data mining without the responsibility for monitoring it. Proposed applications for this technology range from medical records to voting software. Double-blind computation used to be prohibitively expensive, but technological advances have made it feasible for large-scale analysis. Instead of a reassuring motto like Google’s “Don’t Be Evil,” systems can now be designed to preclude evil.

The cyberpunk movement in the early ’90s foresaw the lawlessness of cyberspace. It proposed technological solutions to facilitate cooperative behavior in the absence of a governing body. The goal was anarchy—not in the sense of chaos, but in the sense that no one would be in charge. Instead of relying on regulators and police, user-defined rules would be enforced with economic incentives and software.

Bitcoin is the most prominent example. It’s a bearer instrument, but instead of a certificate, cryptographic signatures are used to authorize unforgeable transactions. Ledger history is stored in a database replicated across tens of thousands of machines around the world, and users are expected to verify transactions for themselves.