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Bitcoin Encryption Privacy The Almighty Buck

Researcher Spots a Drug Buy In Bitcoin's Blockchain 78

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "It should come as no surprise to Bitcoin users that despite the pseudonymity the cryptocurrency offers, its transactions can be tracked. But University of California at San Diego researcher Sarah Meiklejohn proved that privacy problem more clearly than ever by showing a reporter that she could detect a specific point in Bitcoin's blockchain record of transactions where he had spent Bitcoins in exchange for marijuana on the Silk Road, the most popular online Bitcoin-based black market for drugs. To simulate a law enforcement subpoena, the reporter for Forbes began by giving Meiklejohn a Bitcoin address associated with Forbes' account. But with just that information, Meiklejohn was able to draw on a "clustering" analysis she had performed to identify Silk Road addresses and match them with the one used in the .3 BTC drug buy. She admits that a user who took more efforts to obscure his or her Bitcoin address through a laundering service or other unidentified Bitcoin wallets would be harder to track."
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Researcher Spots a Drug Buy In Bitcoin's Blockchain

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  • Re:huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday September 09, 2013 @09:19AM (#44796531) Homepage Journal

    RTFS. The researcher didn't know any of those details. She was given only a Btc address, and she discovered the rest. The reporter who made the buy was able to confirm that she correctly identified those facts. ( I assume it was a test buy, and the materials turned over to the proper authorities.)

    I don't know if her methods would stand up in a courtroom. They would, however, be enough to put John Law on someone's trail, and possibly enough to seek a warrant.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday September 09, 2013 @09:49AM (#44796765) Homepage

    Alternately, if allowed by your state, start organizing citizens to put together a ballot initiative. If the folks in Washington state can do it, so can you.

    In Washington, it actually led to an extremely high voter turnout (pun fully intended). Apparently that's the kind of thing that leads people to actually care about politics.

  • Re:huh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fastest fascist ( 1086001 ) on Monday September 09, 2013 @10:22AM (#44797111)
    All the researcher discovered was that the writer had sent funds to Silk Road. The article specifically points out they couldn't tell what, if anything, the bitcoins were used to buy. The headline is sensationalist, to say the least.

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