First Chainalysis Came For Bitcoin... And I Held BCH, So I Did Nothing
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First it was Bitcoin. Now it’s Bitcoin Cash. And soon, a portfolio of other cryptocurrencies with “bigger economic weight”, all tracked via forensic tools developed by Chainalysis.
Chainalysis announced on Thursday that it would be unveiling a Know Your Transaction (KYT) service, that will enable banks and exchanges to monitor activity on the blockchain.
Based in New York, Chainalysis, which at present only tracks Bitcoin, helps regulators and authorities to track movements and transactions as well as building up profiles on those using them.
As the popularity of other cryptocurrencies grows, and people begin to use other cryptocurrencies, so Chainalysis has decided to expand the number of coins it can track.
It starts today with Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and will later target others, suggesting that coins such as Ethereum (ETH) and Litecoin (LTC) are next.
Blockchains such as Monero (XMR) and Zcash (ZEC) are unlikely to be targeted by Chainalysis; they are designed so that individual coins cannot be traced
In the past, it has helped America’s IRS to find tax avoiders. It was also the company that published the findings that 4m Bitcoins were unrecoverable.
Although blockchains do not hold users’ personal information, Chainalysis collects statistical information and uses it to determine whether suspicious activity is illegal, such as money laundering.
Co-founder Jonathan Levin told Fortune that the company was already profitable, after launching in 2014. Despite falling coin value, revenue has grown threefold since last year, according to Levin. The expansion follows a $16m raise in venture capital from the investment banking firm, Benchmark.
Chainalysis, which originally started out as a company providing services for law enforcement, has said that cryptocurrency exchanges are now its fastest growing consumer base.
Opinion – The Impact of More Chainalysis
While Bitcoin and its brethren may have been used extensively by ‘drug dealers and murderers’, as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan famously suggested in 2017, fiat cash is hardly exempt from the taint of criminality. In fact, the United Nations suggests that between $800 billion and $2 trillion is laundered every year as a result of criminal activity – that’s up to 5% of global GDP, and up to seven times the total value of the entire crypto asset market.
A study by a Chainalysis competitor, Elliptic, in conjunction with The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, claimed to have examined laundered bitcoins and found that “Our study, the first of its kind, indicates that while most types of conversion services have received some bitcoins from illicit activity, the vast majority of the funds they receive do not appear to be illicit,” although it qualified this finding by noting that “Our data should not be interpreted to assess or estimate the full amount of illicit Bitcoin transactions which may have occurred on the Bitcoin blockchain.”
The continuing efforts by governments and private financial institutions to remove incentives to participate in the crypto economy are notable. The insidious creep of legislation to ban cryptocurrency is gathering pace: today, the Reserve Bank of India effectively banned private citizens and businesses from engaging in crypto-related transactions with regulated entities.
What Is Really Going On With Cryptocurrency?
Seen as a whole, the continuing and growing suppression of economic empowerment by governments is a clear indicator that the promise of cryptocurrency is waning. Stores of value such as Bitcoin are not only unwelcome at the regulatory table – they are finding themselves the victims of a concerted effort to eradicate their potential and the existential threat they pose to nationalism as a human construct.
In short, the authorities are coming for Bitcoin. Just as the Reserve Bank of India said today, “Technological innovations, including those underlying virtual currencies, have the potential to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the financial system…” and they follow that with a word that we see over and over again: “However…”
It’s the same mantra we’ve heard from banks, regulators, governments the world over. Bitcoin is bad! Bitcoin is bad! However… blockchain has potential. The message is clear – it’s bad if you, the people, have the power. It’s good if we, the already-empowered, control the technology.
Chainalysis may well be creating a tool that is appropriate, fair, and useful – taxes are part of the social contract, and tax cheats should be caught and punished.
But as the uses for the technology expand, it’s hardly a stretch to imagine that in countries where transactions of Bitcoin are on the verge of being banned, Chainalysis will be instrumental in putting people in jail.
Invoking Martin Niemöller’s poem about the Nazis may seem a distraught response to a simple news story about a technology that’s designed to catch criminals.
But it’s the scope-creep that should terrify legitimate cryptocurrency enthusiasts. The fact that our attempts to create economic freedom for ourselves and our fellow humans are being actively curtailed by regulation, technology, and even (thanks to people like Dimon and Gates) the court of public opinion.
Today is another step in the ongoing marginalization of the crypto community… how will we respond? And what happens if they criminalize our digital currencies and seize our assets?
If we don’t fight this now, when and where will we have this battle… and who will be left to fight with us?
(News reporting: Paddy Baker. Opinion: Adam Selene)