Originally published May 18 2015
Is your Bitcoin dealer spying on you and colluding with the feds?
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) An ominous message left earlier this year on Reddit indicated that Bitcoin users who use the wallet hosting service Coinbase may be getting tracked by government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security.
As reported by TruthVoice, in March the Baltimore office of DHS subpoenaed Reddit for information on users of the site's "dark net markets" forum, which the agency says is being used to make illicit purchases including drugs. The subpoena included the recently disappeared market "Evolution."
As reported by The Daily Caller:
Evolution -- which peaked at 34,000 drug listings during its year of business dealing narcotics, weapons and stolen financials -- disappeared from the dark web earlier this month along with aliased administrators Verto, Kimble and $12 million in bitcoin from the site's users.
But that's not the only purpose behind the subpoena, TruthVoice reports: It seeks user information on all dark net sites, a "euphemism used to describe services, sites and machines using anonymizing protocols such as TOR."
Currently, that is the relationship between members of the DarkNetMarkets subreddit and Coinbase.
What's the real purpose behind the probe?
On May 2, a Coinbase customer posted a warning on Reddit, along with links to screen shots, that appear to show that Coinbase is actively monitoring the transactions of at least some of its customers. The user claims, in particular, that they made a donation to Gwern Branwen, a researcher and moderator of the DarkNetMarkets subreddit.
"When I donated to gwern, I hadn't made any other transactions with Coinbase for two weeks or more. The only transaction in Coinbase for the last two weeks until right now is the gwern donation. It's no coincidence," wrote the user.
Other users subsequently wrote of similar occurrences, including one who said police physically showed up at the door shortly after a Coinbank transfer.
DHS is searching for five users who discussed Evolution, according to The DC:
One of those users, NSWGreat, claimed to be an Evolution staffer and even held a Reddit "ask me anything" open Q&A on the site about online drug trafficking and his experience as a public relations representative for Evolution.
"Given the date and the affected accounts, it doesn't take Holmes to deduce the reason for this subpoena," Gwern in a statement to WIRED. "Just one naked connection revealing [NSWGreat's] home IP would be enough, and if he's like past market employees, a raid will turn up all the damning evidence one could hope for."
Branwen went on to note that he, himself, has never sold illegal items on a dark web market, nor has he worked for any such sites. Still, he remains troubled by the DHS's probe into his personal information.
"How can I continue as a [Reddit] moderator knowing that all my non-[encrypted] communications have been laid bare, there may be followup subpoenas for my Gmail account, and I may be under further investigation myself?" he said.
"Stay away from Coinbase"
TruthVoice reported that several users were railing against Coinbase after the anonymous user posted information about receiving the cryptic messages from the Bitcoin wallet company. Most were speculating as to the reason behind the probe, which appears to be a naked monitoring of transactions.
A Coinbase spokesperson e-mailed a comment to The Daily Dot, as reported by TruthVoice, saying, "We don't comment on specific cases, however, Coinbase is required to monitor activity on its platform in accordance with the Bank Secrecy Act and other regulation governing all Money Service Businesses."
"Until Coinbase explains their monitoring activities in more detail, my recommendation would be to either stay away from their services or practice more caution when using them to make donations to people like Gwern Branwen, Edward Snowden or Ross Ulbricht," TruthVoice said.
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