Beginning of the End for Anonymous Crypto-Currency?

One of the major attractions of Bitcoin, Etherium, Monero and other crypto-currencies has been the ability to keep your transactions anonymous, away from the prying eyes of governments, law enforcement agencies, and anyone else.  A recent ruling in a federal district court in California will change that.

The court ordered popular crypto-currency exchange and wallet service Coinbase to turn over records on more than 14,000 customers to the IRS.  This came after a year long legal fight which removed the majority of items on the IRS wish list, but still provided for some limited anonymity veil piercing.

Specifically, the IRS wanted all information on any US residents who “at any time during the period January 1 2013, through December 31 2015, conducted transactions in a convertible virtual currency as defined in IRS Notice 2014-21.”  This included information such as passports, driver’s licenses, wallet addresses, and public encryption keys for all accounts and wallets.  This would have affected over 500,00 individuals, including yours truly.  Thankfully, this was rejected by the court as overly broad.

But the court did allow for the IRS to get information about Coinbase account holders that made at least $20,000 in any single transaction.  Coinbase has been ordered to turn over the taxpayer ID number, name, birth date, address, and records of account activity for those 14,000 customers who made transactions of $20,000 or more.

When the IRS can make sweeping demands for financial records, it sets a bad precedent for financial privacy.  The case against Coinbase can not only be used against other crypto-currency exchanges, but also against traditional financial institutions as well.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.
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