Can the Government Track Bitcoin, or is it Anonymous?: A central aspect of Bitcoin since its inception has always been privacy. Bitcoin originally exists as a peer-to-peer form of digital cash that retains privacy through the anonymity of public keys. Bitcoin famously grants privacy to its users, leveraging the ideals of security and autonomy in a digital world that seems extremely devoid of both things. But can the government track Bitcoin?
Since 2013, various studies have been conducted that look into tracking Bitcoin transactions and their associated identities. While it is possible to create a certain degree of anonymity with cryptocurrencies, sending transactions completely anonymously via the Bitcoin blockchain remains impossible.
Bitcoin uses blockchain technology which remains fully open and accessible to everyone. Due to the nature of the transparency of the blockchain, money flows can easily be tracked.
Governments and law enforcement can use KYC documents uploaded to an exchange to identify both the sender and receiver of Bitcoin transactions.
Are Bitcoin transactions traceable?
Experts have found Bitcoin to be pseudonymous instead of anonymous. Each Bitcoin has one public key and one private key code. While the former identifies it on the blockchain, without the latter one cannot send it from a digital wallet to another. This is due to the way the unknown creator has built Bitcoin. These functions aims to cut the trusted third party out of the transaction and allow the two parties to make trustless transactions.
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In Bitcoin, each transaction is cryptographically time-stamped and written onto an unchangeable or immutable digital ledger. Double-spending is not possible as the information is publicly visible. This means each Bitcoin transaction can be easily tracked from the moment the token was created. However, the identity of the owner is not revealed.
In Bitcoin, proof of ownership comes in the form of the private key code, which is also required to initiate a transaction and send the Bitcoin to another person. Once sent, the code is burned, and a new one is created when the BTC is received. Thus, Bitcoin’s owners are hidden behind a public key code, and the proof of possession is provided by the private key code. It should be noted, however, that possessing the private key code is not the same as legal ownership.
A user can trace the amount sent and the addresses in a transaction. However, these transactions can only be traced to the user’s public key, which does not provide any personal information or real-world identification. In other words, blockchain explorers can help trace transactions and obtain wallet addresses, but they cannot find the identity linked to the address. This grants BTC users pseudo-anonymity.
Are Bitcoin transactions really anonymous?
Only the public key, which is a string of alphanumeric characters, can be used to identify transactions on the blockchain. This means that nobody can ascertain the real-world identity behind the public keys, even though they can look at the transactions and their holdings. However, this changes when one needs to exchange their cryptocurrency for cash or other tokens or to get a cryptocurrency debit card.
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To do this, cryptocurrency users need to register with a centralized cryptocurrency exchange, crypto bank, or decentralized application. However, the majority of these platforms require new users to complete a KYC process. By doing so, one can create a link between real-world data and the public key of a wallet. Any individual can use this information to easily exploit and uncover details about the identity of the person behind a particular wallet’s public key.
Can the government track Bitcoin owner?
Transactions in Bitcoin are easily accessible by the public due to the transparent nature of blockchain technology. The government may use law enforcement authorities to see what happens on the Bitcoin blockchain. This opens up opportunities for authorities such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to trace Bitcoin ownership.
Authorities can simply analyze the BTC addresses for transactions to find out where it came from and where it will reach. Because many BTC users reveal their identity at some point, government entities can trace Bitcoin ownership whenever transactions reach that point. With this information, governments can enforce tax liabilities on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Can the government track Bitcoin?
Authorities such as the police, the IRS, or the FBI can track Bitcoin. However, enforcers may not directly identify the parties involved in a BTC transaction. They can instead try to observe and analyze BTC movements and corresponding patterns in an effort to profile, de-anonymize, and identify those that are transacting.
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It’s a fact that not all Bitcoin transactions have a link with criminal activities. However, enforcers such as the police and other entities are always on the lookout for people or organizations that use cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin for illicit purposes, such as fraud and money laundering. Agencies responsible for tax collection also want to track BTC owners, traders, and investors to raise taxes from them.
Certain companies, such as Chainalysis, can provide services for blockchain analytics and monitoring. They can determine whether certain Bitcoin transfers between wallets have a link with criminal activity or not. They may share this data with authorities to help investigators track certain crypto funds on an international level.
Can anyone have an anonymous Bitcoin wallet?
While it’s possible to have an anonymous Bitcoin wallet, it is not enough to ensure anonymity. When a transaction takes place, a link between a wallet and the identity develops. It has become increasingly challenging to conduct transactions in a completely anonymous way. due to tightening KYC rules for exchanges around the world.
However, there are certain cryptocurrency wallets that allow users to operate completely anonymously. An example of this is the Electrum wallet, which users can integrate with a hardware wallet as well. However, it won’t serve the purpose of the anonymous wallet that received BTC from an exchange with KYC.
Can Bitcoin transactions be anonymous?
There are certain ways one can get around the limitations, but they are often technical and expensive. One can set up a special protocol to hide the origin of the transfer. Once that’s complete, the user has to regularly cycle through different wallets to achieve anonymity. Another way to maintain anonymity while using BTC is to buy it with cash using a Bitcoin ATM.
Bitcoin is pseudonymous in nature as it relies on public identifiers that are not always with civic identities. This makes Bitcoin transactions different from those involving cash or conventional digital transfers. Thus, anonymity is not a function of Bitcoin or blockchain technology. However, it is a practical achievement that rests on the crucial link between civic identities and Bitcoin addresses.
- Is Bitcoin really anonymous?
Bitcoin provides an acceptable level of privacy, as well as any other form of money. However, it is not anonymous and does not offer the same degree of privacy as cash, as it leaves extensive public records.
- Can the government track who Bitcoin is sent to?
The government can track Bitcoin and its transactions, as they are stored in a public ledger. All it has to do is link the BTC holder to their wallet or transaction.