FBI Explores The Implications Of Bitcoin

from the why-that's-so-2011 dept

Remember Bitcoin? The online cryptographic currency that got a lot of attention last year, but quickly faded? There was some political grandstanding against it, like when Senator Chuck Schumer declared that Bitcoin was a form of money laundering. And, now, the FBI is trying to understand Bitcoin, sending around a document warning that criminals might (gasp) use Bitcoin.

The report is pretty even-handed, actually. It notes that there’s a reasonable likelihood that “malicious actors will exploit Bitcoin to launder money.” However, it at least admits, noting that this is no different than cash, that users of Bitcoin “value the currency for many of the same reasons people trust Federal Reserve notes: they believe they can exchange the currency for goods, services or a national currency at a later date.” It does highlight some “unique features” that make Bitcoin especially suited for illegal activity — but most of those just seem to be examples of Bitcoin being used for questionable activity, rather than specific features of Bitcoin.

It also suggests that the FBI isn’t that worried about the fact that some uses of Bitcoin can be anonymous — noting (correctly) that it’s not as anonymous as some people think, and good old fashioned detective work can often uncover the people:

Although Bitcoin does not have a centralized authority, the FBI assesses with medium confidence that law enforcement can discover more information about, and in some cases identify, malicious actors, if the actors convert their bitcoins into a fiat currency. Thirdparty bitcoin services may require customers to submit valid identification or bank information to complete transactions. Furthermore, any third-party service that qualifies as a money transmitter, and therefore a MSB, must register with the FinCEN and implement an anti-money laundering program.

All in all, I actually expected more hyperbole and fear mongering, but seeing as this was meant for internal use, rather than for political gain, it seems like the paper was pretty even-handed. Of course, none of that matters at all if no one is using Bitcoin any more…

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Comments on “FBI Explores The Implications Of Bitcoin”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, none of that matters at all if no one is using Bitcoin any more…

Therein is the key. If it were being widely adopted, there would be hyperbole, embellishment, overstatement, fear mongering, terrorist plots, pot dealers, dead baby seals, electric cars, fully automatic weapons, and probably mention of that guy who put the flaming bag of poop on your doorstep that one time for good measure.

Mangix (profile) says:

Not Quite Correct

“for many of the same reasons people trust Federal Reserve notes: they believe they can exchange the currency for goods, services or a national currency at a later date.”

It’s not that people have actual faith in the Federal Reserve. It’s that they have no choice. Legal tender laws essentially eliminate any other form of currency as a legal means of exchange. See the Liberty Dollar case a while back as an example.

bt says:

Since when has...

That idea depends on agents tasked with reporting about currency not knowing about “fiat currency” and never stating it previously. Then picking it up from bitcoin user’s and wedging it into a report. Does a street cop put street slang into reports? No they use the language typically used previously.

If you want to know the technical terms used you should take a few years worth of reports on counterfeiting and money laundering and give them a read. Spoiler: fiat currency does not make an appearance.

RonKaminsky says:

$276K of trading per day on Mt. Gox alone

Yes, the report itself showcases information about the trading volume on Mt. Gox currently being around $276K per day.

In my opinion, however, just trading shouldn’t really be considered “use”. The report has no firm information on the volume of bitcoins actually used to buy real goods or services.

bt says:

Re: Since when has...

I never said it was slang only used by bitcoin users.

I’m also not seeing anyone showing any instance of the FBI previously using it in reports. Considering the amount of reports done on currency it should be easy for those scoffing at the idea of the FBI never using it.

The writing looks, tastes, and smells like the product of bitcoin users. The tone set and the language used, when the language is used indicate rubbish to me. Again I would like to an example of the FBI using “fiat currency” like that “report” did, as I never have come across such a use.

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