A New Issue For Bitcoin: Crypto Key Disclosure
from the not-so-secret dept
The debate is still raging whether Bitcoin is a brilliant idea that will revolutionize business and society, a high-tech money laundering scheme, or just a fad that will soon pass into history. But in a fascinating post, Jon Matonis points to a problem that doesn't really seem to have been considered before:
Key disclosure laws may become the most important government tool in asset seizures and the war on money laundering. When charged with a criminal offense, that refers to the ability of the government to demand that you surrender your private encryption keys that decrypt your data. If your data is currency such as access control to various amounts of bitcoin on the block chain, then you have surrendered your financial transaction history and potentially the value itself.
That's no mere theoretical issue in countries like Australia, South Africa and the UK that already have such key disclosure laws.
Matonis reviews the limited US case law here, and concludes:
To say the cryptocurrency bitcoin is disruptive would be an understatement. Bitcoin not only disrupts payments and monetary sovereignty, it also disrupts the legal enforcement of anti-money laundering laws, asset seizure, and capital controls. It is very likely that a key disclosure case will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court where it is far from certain that the Fifth Amendment privilege, as it relates to a refusal to decrypt bitcoin assets, will be universally upheld.
Perhaps that's something to bear in mind if you're currently using Bitcoin in the belief that they'll never be able to force you to reveal your assets and transaction history.