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John Meese

Ideal Legislation Model for State Level?

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John Meese    7

I have been meeting with a number of state-level politicians and regulators who are interested in learning more about Bitcoin, and they have asked for my input into what attitude they should take in regard to Bitcoin legislation.

 

I've persuaded them that Bitcoin is something they should support, or at least leave alone, but I have the opportunity to provide more guidance as far as recommended actions at the state level in Tennessee.

 

Could any regulatory experts provide suggestions or model legislation that could be beneficial in this discussion?

 

I know one barrier of entry in the Bitcoin sphere is regulations surrounding Money Service Transmitter Businesses, which is one think I discussed, but I'm sure there is more they could do to make things easier in the state.

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The following is a proposal mainly addressing the risks of cryptocurrencies due to their pseudonymous nature.

In addition, it is a solution for creating more trust amongst cryptocurrency users.

 

It is also available as an attachment (PDF) to this post.

 

 

 

Terminology

 

Bitcoin: The Bitcoin cryptocurrency, or other cryptocurrency.

User: Someone active on a cryptocurrency network.

Bank: A regulated financial institution, or governmental institution.

 

 

Introduction

 

This proposal mainly addresses the risks of cryptocurrencies due to their pseudonymous nature.

In addition, it is a solution for creating more trust amongst cryptocurrency users.

 

 

Pseudonymity

 

Although users/transactions of a cryptocurrency network are not really anonymous (pseudonymous), the more this network grows, the more time consuming and costly it will be for a government to detect any wrongdoing.

This calls for a solution providing transparency, ideally without interfering with the network's architecture.

 

1. Current scenario

 

Anonymous addresses are being used for sending and receiving Bitcoins, leading to anonymous/pseudonymous transactions on the Bitcoin network.

As experienced lately, this could open the door to illegal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking and other.

 

 

2. Proposed scenario

 

Addresses will be registered/issued by an entity that is in possession of the user's verified identity.

This entity could be a governmental institution or regulated financial institution. In this proposal we choose a bank to fulfill this task, because of its expertise in the area of security and finance.

 

 

3. How will it help fighting fraud?

 

Addresses will be linked to a user's profile, providing governments with transparency about transactions on the Bitcoin network. This will in turn help keep fraudulent activities to a minimum.

 

 

4. Doesn't this mean violating one of the main principles Bitcoin was founded on, namely being an independent system unaffected by any bank or government?

 

No, the user will still be the only one in possession of the addresses' private keys, thus retaining full control. The bank will only keep the link between the individual and the public keys/addresses.

Even if a bank would go bankrupt, its (former) customers would still have access to their funds (Bitcoins).

 

 

5. In practice: Registering/Issuing addresses

 

It is common for a Bitcoin user to maintain multiple addresses for increased privacy and administrative purposes. Therefore a user should be able to obtain additional addresses at any time.

This calls for an automated process, most likely in the form of a web application made available by the bank or a central authority.

 

 

Obtaining new addresses

 

Users will first have to authenticate to the (web) application using the credentials (username and password) received from their bank.

They can then choose the number of new addresses to create.

After confirmation, the (web) application will generate the requested addresses and will save the addresses (or public keys) together with the user's profile.

The newly created addresses and corresponding private keys will thereafter be securely presented or sent to the user, who can immediately start using them within the Bitcoin network.

Note that keeping the private keys secure will still be the user's responsibility. The application should not keep a copy of the private keys.

 

 

Figure 1: Registering addresses

w8x6op.png

 

6. In practice: Tracing user transactions

 

If, in case of suspicion of fraud, a government would need a list of transactions an individual has made within the Bitcoin network, the Bitcoin block chain can be queried for all transactions containing the registered addresses of that individual.

 

 

How to trace the other party of the transaction?

 

Countrywide

 

If the other party has to follow the same regulations (lives in the same country), the address will also be registered within the system1 and can be looked up (reversely).

 

 

1 Note that it would be more convenient for this to have a central system (countrywide) for keeping records (as shown in figure 1), instead of each bank maintaining their separate system.

 

 

Globally

 

A. Implementing a globally accessible central system

 

 

 

When using a central system that is accessible by any country, Bitcoin users across the world would have their addresses registered within the same system. Consequently it will be possible to trace both parties of any transaction.

As this solution may not always be desirable for a government because of privacy and security reasons, further options will be explored.

 

 

B. Implementing a link between an address and the issuer using the block chain

 

 

 

If the transaction’s counterparty is from another country, and thus not registered within the system, a way to trace the foreign address is by firstly finding out its issuing country. A government can then cooperate with the foreign issuer to complete the trace.

To be able to determine the issuer of an address, a link between the address and its issuer is needed.

An implementation of such a link can be as follows.

Before sending a newly created address to the user, the (web) application will create an initial transaction on the block chain using the new address and a predefined issuer's address (comparable to a BIC/SWIFT code). This can be achieved by sending a token or small amount of value2 (0.00000001 BTC) to the new address.

The issuer can then be found by looking up the first transaction of an address in the block chain.

 

 

2 The amount of value can be reclaimed immediately or afterwards.

 

 

Figure 2a: Tracing user transactions

2dlq4p0.png

 

C. Implementing a link between an address and the issuer using a global database

 

 

 

Another way to implement a link between an address and its issuer is by using a global database where a link is being kept between any registered address and its country of issue.

 

 

Figure 2b: Tracing user transactions

2moun4k.png

 

7. Will users' privacy be affected?

 

Users will still retain their anonymity on the Bitcoin network. Depending on the implementation, another user can at most learn about the issuer (country of issue) of a particular address.

 

 

8. How will it create more trust amongst users?

 

A user or business will be able to check whether the counterparty's address is a registered address by checking if a link between the address and any issuer exists (as explained in 6B and 6C).

For a business, this can also contribute to the KYC (Know Your Customer) process.

 

 

9. What about current (unregistered) addresses?

 

Funds from unregistered addresses can be transferred to registered addresses.

Another possibility is to allow registration of current (unregistered) addresses, by means of proving ownership of the address (which can be achieved by signing a specific message).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dario Di Pardo

[email protected]

 

[Edited on 19/11/2014 to enhance clarity]

Bitcoin regulation proposal.pdf

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John Wnuk    70

Because of the global nature of Bitcoin, it would seem that country or federal level only regulation would be adequate. State by state level regulation doesn't seem to add value, but does add significant time and cost to merchants and tax payers. Getting rid of waste and unnecessary middle brokers and regulators would seem to be an integral part of Bitcoin.

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Todd Erickson    212

As you neighbor in NC and a Banker, my recommendation to ALL Regulators is to follow exactly what Canada did: Which was: Treat Bitcoin and their transactions exactly like cash transactions for all purposes (like AML). YES, this does mean that some bitcoin businesses would have to register as MSB's but that is OK and actually preferential.

 

Just my 2c.

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2. Proposed scenario

 

Instead of users creating Bitcoin addresses themselves, addresses will be issued by their bank or other regulated financial institution.

 

8. What about current (unregistered) addresses?

 

Funds from unregistered addresses should be transferred to registered addresses before the end of a certain grace period. After this period, unregistered addresses are not to be used anymore.

 

Sounds like the author didnt understand what satoshi wanted by creating Bitcoins. It was taking the power about money out of the hands of banks. This suggestion is the opposite. Power to the banks again.

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John Meese    7

Dario,

 

Perhaps I should have clarified. I'm looking for model legislation that would help Bitcoin by lifting existing restrictions, not adding more. I have no desire to encourage intervention in the Bitcoin world. That's the whole point of cryptocurrency, it doesn't require a central authority.

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I know how it sounds, so I understand your concern.

 

It isn't necessarily a bank that has to provide you your bitcoin addresses, it could be any government institution.

 

As a bank is already in possession of your personal info and in most cases you'd have to physically present yourself in order to create an account there, it seems the safer option with regard to money laundering.

An additional benefit is that a bank can provide a direct fiat to BTC exchange service.

 

 

Please note this bank or government institution doesn't OWN the addresses, it just issues them, so nothing changes in regards to the bitcoin perspective.

You could compare it with an online wallet, where you go and create a new address there, instead of using a local bitcoin client to create a new address "under the radar".

 

 

Personally, I think this would prove to be a great step towards global cryptocurrency acceptance, instead of hindering it.

 

 

Regards,

Dario

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John Meese    7

Dario,

 

There we can agree to disagree.

 

One of the key benefits of Bitcoin is that it is independent of governments or international borders. Frictionless international payments are possible only because of that. No single Government has the authority to regulate it to that extent, nor a single bank entity to decide who gets addresses.

 

Also, leaving this to banks would abandon the billions of unbanked in the world, who don't have addresses or credit backgrounds in the first place to share.

 

I have no issue with banks issuing Bitcoin wallets to customers, or offering exchange services, but I wouldn't support their enforced monopoly of that service.

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Dario: I think your proposal would be good as an internal policy for a private financial institution. They could accept to deal with businesses or individuals (for instance: to hold bank accounts which are used for crypto/fiat transfers) on condition that transfers are done to your registered adresses (i.e. adresses that the institution itself has generated).

 

As a matter of public policy, however, I strongly disagree with this proposal. Such a legislation would be un-implementable (impossible to stop users from generating their own addresses and impossible to stop transactions between addresses) and would certainly slow Bitcoin adoption and the growth of its economy.I believe this would also be unfair to established Bitcoin wallet services (coinbase, coinkite, etc.) which would have to comply to these rules (from what I understand from your proposal, these exchanges would be de facto illegal if they are not a government address approved issuer). This kind of proposal would drive users to abandon these wallet services for alternatives which are immune to this rule due to their decentralized or anonymous nature (i.e. dark wallet).

 

This would also be (my personal opinion) an unjust law because government simply should not have the right to impose a monopoly/oligopoly over address generation, which goes far beyond what the State's mandate should be. Not to mention this kind of regulation would likely be strongly opposed by the Bitcoin community, and I am not really sure that governments actually intend to regulate Bitcoin in this way.

 

Also: is it technically possible for a third-party institution to generate an address on behalf of someone else without ever knowing the private key? If so, is there a mechanism by which the user can be assured that the third-party institution was never aware of the public key? If not, than the address generating institution would be the legitimate co-owner of the Bitcoin address and its associated balance because they could withdraw the balance at any time. (edit: could this be potentially avoided if the issued address was multisig with 2/3 being held by the user and 1/3 by the issuing institution?)

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Francis: you can't prevent people from drug trafficking neither, but laws are in place to keep it to a minimum.

 

 

Personally, I don't think the true anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies can survive in the long run (because of increased tax evasion, money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism financing, ...).

 

Anonymity towards your government has to be given up eventually (anonymity can/should retain between end users of course).

 

 

Obviously, I like true financial anonymity as much as the next guy, but I'm just trying to be realistic and think this or similar regulation will be inevitable.

 

 

The issuer could even mark an address as safe (or unsafe) to allow more secure trading between businesses and end users - to give another possible advantage - which could in turn convince more people to enter the bitcoin world.

 

However, I agree this kind of switch to be rather a pain in the ass for existing bitcoin users (initially).

 

 

 

Anyway, these are just my thoughts and I thank you for sharing yours.

 

 

Best,

Dario

 

Edit: Regarding the private key security issue: maybe you could also turn it the other way around: Users generating the private key theirselves, and only registering the public key with the responsible institution...

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I agree that pure anonymity won't survive long, but I disagree with a formal setup where Banks issue addresses exclusively, if that's what was intended. But for crypto to go mainstream, a bridge must be forged between the existing financial system and the next. The average person in this world who is used to banking services is going to be looking for assurance, security, and convenience. They're going to eagerly hand over some or a lot of privacy for these things, and they'll expect it from crypto. That's just people for you.

 

So let people generate all the public addresses they want; but private industry, banks included, will participate in an ID system where known addresses are published (maybe with limited access to the public for privacy) and unknown ones will have to go through KYC/AML. I don't like the idea of the process exclusively belonging to banks or FIs as a matter of public policy, but I kind of see pure FIs dominating the crypto credentials space eventually. I do feel that all market participants--really merchants, because who else--who would like to act as a gateway should be able to get involved, qualify for MSB or some other FI status, maybe even a specialized crypto cred gateway status, and provide credentials in a standardized way.

 

But in general, I agree that the anarchist's utopia where money goes totally anonymous on a massive and mainstream scale is naive and not even desirable. We just want to decentralize money as much as we can while maintaining certain aspects of civilization like rule of law and national security, and we want to de-couple money from politics as much as possible because politicians can't (never could, never will) competently handle the responsibility.

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Thanks for your reply, Richard.

 

Any government-controlled or licensed institution could take up the role of issuing or registering addresses indeed. Banks (although it feels contradictory) however seem the logical option to me, as they already are experienced in finance and security.

 

 

If misuse of the currency could be halted by controlling the financial nodes only - so no rules or restrictions for 'ordinary' users - well, that would be great of course.

 

But it seems like we are already heading that way:

 

French Government Outlines New Regulations for Bitcoin Market Transparency

 

The new regulations require bitcoin “distributors” to identify and verify their users to limit the level of anonymity.

 

Specifically, exchanges are required to report on every transaction and verify the identity of the parties involved in any bitcoin activity.

 

 

Italian Authorities Issue Bitcoin Warnings, Urge Regulation

 

Speaking in an interview with Ansa.it, Attorney General of Rome, Luigi Ciampoli, warned that bitcoin could be abused by criminals engaged in money laundering, financing of terrorism, or mafia activities. He urged for regulation that would allow authorities to trace and identify all persons involved in digital currency transactions.

 

In a recent report on the Italian financial information system (FIU), the Bank of Italy also warned that bitcoin poses a potential risk and that it can be employed to circumvent money laundering regulations or funnel funds to terrorist organisations.

 

The FIU is currently examining bitcoin’s potential for illicit activities and looking at complaints involving suspect bitcoin transactions. Like Ciampoli, the bank warns that “bitcoin transactions, while recorded in an online database, do not identify the parties involved in the transaction”.

 

 

Argentinian Money Regulator Mandates Reporting on Bitcoin Activity

 

Argentina’s Unidad de Información Financiera (UIF) has ordered financial services companies within the country to report all transactions involving digital currency.

 

The UIF document, which outlines amendments to previous regulations, cites the threat of money laundering and criminal financing. It suggests that the UIF will act as a conduit for information enabling greater oversight of bitcoin and other “virtual coins”. The UIF is Argentina’s chief anti-money laundering agency.

 

“Virtual currencies are often traded remotely online. The movement of assets, and that entities from different countries can participate in the same jurisdictions that do not have controls to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism, make it difficult for regulated entities to detect suspicious transactions.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dario

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Mike Hayes    172

The following is a proposal that in particular can help prevent money laundering (also available in attachment).

 

Terminology

 

Bitcoin: The Bitcoin cryptocurrency or alternative cryptocurrency (altcoin).

User: Someone active on a cryptocurrency network.

Bank: A regulated financial institution.

 

1. Current scenario

 

Any user can fully anonymous create an address for sending and receiving Bitcoins.

As experienced lately, this could open the door to illegal activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking.

 

2. Proposed scenario

 

Instead of users creating Bitcoin addresses themselves, addresses will be issued by their bank or other regulated financial institution.

 

3. How will it help fighting fraud?

 

As the bank issues a new address to a customer, it will link that address to the customer's existing profile.

This way the bank will be able to trace the customer's Bitcoin transactions, which in turn will help keep fraudulent activities to a minimum.

 

4. Doesn't this mean violating one of the main principles Bitcoin was founded on, namely being an independent system unaffected by any bank or government?

 

No, the customer will still be the owner of the Bitcoin address and corresponding private key. The bank will only keep the link between the individual and the address, in order to prevent fraud.

Even if a bank would go bankrupt, its (former) customers would still have access to their Bitcoin addresses and any funds in them.

 

5. In practice: Issuing a Bitcoin address

 

It is common for a Bitcoin user to maintain multiple addresses for increased privacy and administrative purposes. Therefore a user should be able to obtain additional addresses at any time.

This calls for an automated process, most likely in the form of a web application made available by the bank or a central authority.

Obtaining a new address

 

Users will first have to authenticate using the credentials (username and password) received from their bank.

They can then choose the number of new addresses to create.

After confirmation, the web application will generate the requested addresses and will save the addresses (or public keys) together with the user's profile.

The newly created addresses and corresponding private keys will thereafter be securely presented or sent to the user, who can immediately start using them within the Bitcoin network.

Note that keeping the private keys secure will still be the user's responsibility. The application should not keep a copy of the private keys.

 

6. In practice: Tracing user transactions

 

If, for example, in case of suspicion of fraud, a bank or the government would need a list of transactions an individual has made within the Bitcoin network, they can simply query the Bitcoin block chain for all transactions made with the registered addresses of that individual.

 

How to trace the other party of the transaction?

 

Countrywide

 

If the other party has to follow the same regulations (lives in the same country), the address will also be registered within the system and can be looked up (reversely).

Note that it would be more convenient for this to have a central system (countrywide) for issuing addresses and keeping records, instead of each bank having their own separate system.

 

Globally

 

Implementing a globally accessible central system

 

When using a central system that is accessible by any country, Bitcoin users across the world would have their addresses registered within the same system. Consequently it will be possible to trace both parties of any transaction.

As this solution may not always be desirable for a government because of privacy and security reasons, we will also explore another option.

 

Implementing a link between a new address and the issuer

 

If the transaction’s other party is from another country, and thus not registered within the system, a way to trace the foreign address is by firstly finding out its issuer. A government can then cooperate with the foreign issuer to complete the trace.

To be able to determine the issuer of an address, a link between the address and its issuer is needed.

An implementation of such a link can be as follows.

Before sending a newly created address to the user, the web application will first send a satoshi1 (0.00000001 BTC) to that address using a predefined issuer's address (comparable to a BIC/SWIFT code). The issuer can then be found by looking up the first transaction of an address in the block chain. Note that this implementation doesn't require an alteration of the Bitcoin code.

1: The satoshi can be reclaimed immediately or afterwards.

Another possible implementation is incorporating the issuer into the address, for which a modification of the Bitcoin code is required.

7. Will users' privacy be affected?

 

Users will still retain their anonymity on the Bitcoin network. Depending on the implementation, one can at most learn about the issuer of a particular address.

8. What about current (unregistered) addresses?

 

Funds from unregistered addresses should be transferred to registered addresses before the end of a certain grace period. After this period, unregistered addresses are not to be used anymore.

 

This proposal seems to make a number of false promises, contains a large fraction of illogic, and does not even seem based on an understanding of bitcoin, but rather on misunderstandings.

 

Just taking one part of this laughable proposal for examination:

 

1. Current scenario

 

Any user can fully anonymous create an address for sending and receiving Bitcoins.

As experienced lately, this could open the door to illegal activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking.

2. Proposed scenario

 

Instead of users creating Bitcoin addresses themselves, addresses will be issued by their bank or other regulated financial institution.

 

Addresses issued by a bank would immediately mean that the "Trustless model" of the bitcoin was destroyed.

 

However, more interesting is that this proposal does not even understand bitcoin. I can take most 50 some digit numbers in base 58 and use one as a private key. From that I can generate public keys in a simple manner and add transactions to the block chain.

 

I know how it sounds, so I understand your concern.....

Please note this bank or government institution doesn't OWN the addresses, it just issues them, so nothing changes in regards to the bitcoin perspective.....

Personally, I think this would prove to be a great step towards global cryptocurrency acceptance, instead of hindering it.

 

Dario

Who does "OWN" a bitcoin address? By definition, anyone who knows the cryptographic number which is the said address. This directly means that the "Trustless Model" of bitcoin peer to peer exchange is destroyed and replaced with a "Trusted Intermediary" ie, the bank.

 

The concept expressed, then that the "institution doesn't OWN the addresses, it just issues them...." is without meaning, but definitely not without purpose.

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However, more interesting is that this proposal does not even understand bitcoin. I can take most 50 some digit numbers in base 58 and use one as a private key. From that I can generate public keys in a simple manner and add transactions to the block chain.

 

Of course you can and could. You can also steal a car, break the speed limit, or worse...

Nothing that can prevent you from doing so, except that you might be held accountable sooner or later by rules or laws set in order to maintain a non-anarchistic society.

 

Yes, laughable in utopia, maybe. Unfotunately for us, this is the real world.

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Really? How are we doing so far?

 

We are somewhere between good and bad and hoping for the better.

I do think any government will prevent cryptocurrencies eventually without at least being able to know who is doing what with his or her 'money'.

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Mike Hayes    172

Of course you can and could. You can also steal a car, break the speed limit, or worse...

Nothing that can prevent you from doing so, except that you might be held accountable sooner or later by rules or laws set in order to maintain a non-anarchistic society.

 

Yes, laughable in utopia, maybe. Unfotunately for us, this is the real world.

 

I'll repeat again a simple FACT. I can take most random number of 50 odd digits, in base 58, and use it as a private key. From that with a small program I generate public keys. With nothing else I can make entries to the blockchain and transact with bitcoin. THAT IS THE REAL WORLD.

 

The article purports to elaborate a utopian form of control, from a totalitarian point of view, which is based on several misunderstandings regarding the nature of bitcoin. This is easy to show. It makes no difference if you would like strong government control or registries of users whatsoever.

 

I am impelled to say that I stand by the comments I made and can certainly support them.

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Theo Chino    10

IMHO,

 

The regulations need to be progressive in nature such as quantity stored in Wallets.

 

- Registration of the business ( where are you and how do we get hold of you.)

- Fingerprinting (why not since as a Cab Driver in New York are required)

- Carrying some sort of Insurance (which will be based on volume like the calculation of Workers Comp insurance) with the habillity to self insure.

- Have different aptitude test based on role (salesman, IT programer, business onwer.)

- Organise a state sancioned education program for salesmen so they don't zealously oversell Small Business that want to receive Bitcoins and force to include the importance of Diversification.

- Don't burden the licensee with applying the Money Laundering regulations; the police will have more than enough material to go after and convict the criminals (they will need to find the criminals wallet.)

 

Other than that, let the courts sort it out.

 

Regards,

Theo

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I'll repeat again a simple FACT. I can take most random number of 50 odd digits, in base 58, and use it as a private key. From that with a small program I generate public keys. With nothing else I can make entries to the blockchain and transact with bitcoin. THAT IS THE REAL WORLD.

 

I am well aware about the concepts of bitcoin and its technology, so let me repeat:

 

Of course you can and could. You can also steal a car, break the speed limit, or worse...

 

No bad intentions or hidden agenda, just want this new technology to succeed too and IMO this is only achievable through compromise (in this case giving up anonymity).

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David R Allen    318

 

No bad intentions or hidden agenda, just want this new technology to succeed too and IMO this is only achievable through compromise (in this case giving up anonymity).

 

Opinion Noted.

 

It might be worth a POLL on the subject. How would you feel about a poll that asked:

 

Do you feel that in order for Bitcoin Technology to succeed, users must give up anonymity? Y/N

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Sarcasm noted :)

 

I don't have much to hide, so I wouldn't mind answering yes, as I think most users new to bitcoin wouldn't mind much too.

 

I am sure you are aware of the fact that the original bitcoin paper didn't mention full anonymity as a key concept or necessity. Actually it explains how bitcoin transactions are anonymous with some similarity to bank transactions nowadays. And that's it.

It doesn't explain the need to hide from the government at all, although we see this as an additional benefit and turned it into a bitcoin concept.

 

Do you really think the US government will allow themselves to lose massive amounts of income tax money?

 

Maybe you can persuade them (and that would be fantastic), but I think you will be needing a reasonable sized army for this.

 

Do you feel that in order for Bitcoin Technology to succeed, users must give up anonymity? Y

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Dario, the bitcoin protocol doesn't exist to prevent money laundering. It isn't going to be developed to accomodate legislator's wishes. It will move in the opposite direction, actually, to eventually provide support for anonymous transactions.

 

I mean no disrespect for your expression here on the forum, but no matter what you do to try to corral bitcoin users, we will defeat all legislative objectives. Total financial noncompliance is the starting point for activity relating to decentralized protocols. Do not expect any further replies from me (to you) in this thread.

 

Goodbye.

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