The web is part of society and is shaped by society. And until society is a crime-free zone, the web will not be a crime-free zone.
So what is cryptocurrency? A cryptocurrency is a decentralized payment system, essentially allowing people to send currency to each other over the web without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank or financial institution. Transactions are cheap, and in many cases, they’re free. And also, the payments are also pseudo-anonymous.
Also, the main feature is that it is completely decentralized, meaning there is no single central authority or anything like that. This has the effect of everyone having a complete copy of all transactions that occur with Bitcoin. This creates an incredibly resilient network, meaning that no one can change or reverse or police any transaction.
There high level of anonymity means transactions are very difficult to trace It’s not completely impossible, but it’s unrealistic in most cases. So crime with cryptocurrency– because you’ve got fast, unlimited transactions, and you’ve got a high level of anonymity, it theoretically creates a system that’s ripe for exploitation. So in most cases when it’s a crime online with online payment systems, they tend to go to the authorities and say, we can hand over this payment information or we can stop these transactions and reverse them. And none of this can happen with Bitcoin, so it theoretically makes it ripe for criminals.
In light of this, many different organizations are researching Bitcoin and looking at Bitcoin and trying to understand how it works and what they can police. It’s also come up in the media quite a few times, and the media, being the media, tends to focus on the bad side of it. So they focus too much on offense with it. So if there’s a theft or a scam or something like that, they blame Bitcoin and Bitcoin users.
So the most notable is probably Silk Road, which recently took off, and their $1.2 billion worth of bitcoins went to pay for anything from drugs to guns to hit men with these kinds of things. And the media, again, was very quick to blame it on Bitcoin and say it was the fault of Bitcoin users.
But there is actually little evidence of the scale of the crime problem with cryptocurrencies. We don’t know if there is much or we don’t know if there is little. But even so, people are very quick to brand it as a criminal thing, and they forget the legitimate uses like fast and quick payments.
So some research questions I’m looking into in this area are what does crime with Bitcoin look like? So many would say that scams and thefts have been going on for ages. But the means by which they happen have changed with technology. So a Victorian street swindler would do something quite different from a 419 Nigerian prince scammer.
So the next question I would like to research is towards the extent of the crime problem with cryptocurrency. So by creating a log of known scams and thefts and things like that, we can then cross reference all transactions with public transaction logs and see how many transactions are actually illegal and criminal. So my final question would be, to what extent does technology itself facilitate crime? By looking back at the crime logs, we can see what particular type of crime may have occurred, and whether it’s actually the technology’s fault, or whether it’s the same old crime we’ve been seeing before. And once we consider these issues, we can begin to think about possible solutions to the problem of crime with Bitcoin.
And we can consider that the only appropriate solution would be one that preserves the underlying values of the technology, which would be privacy and decentralization. Much of the media’s focus is on its criminal aspects. And they don’t offer enough value for legitimate use, because Bitcoin is a technology that enables quick, fast payments, which is useful for anyone paying for anything on the web.