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RMS Calls For "Truly Anonymous" Payment Alternative To Bitcoin

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the don't-follow-the-money dept.

Bitcoin 287

BitVulture writes "Richard Stallman took time to air his views on the crypto-currency that has become virtually as valuable as gold. In an interview with Russian media giant RT, Stallman praised Bitcoin for allowing people to 'send money to someone without getting the permission of a payment company'. But he also warned against a major weakness of Bitcoin and called for the development of 'a system for truly anonymous payment' online."

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Now the other party says there are two Americas (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572591)

Don't you believe that either.

I have visited our troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Germany, and all over the world. I have visited our troops in California where they go to train. And I have visited our military hospitals. And I tell you this: our men and women in uniform do not believe that there are two different Americas. They believe that there's one America and they're fighting for it!

What RMS has in mind ? (3, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 10 months ago | (#45572601)

RMS wants a totally anonymous payment system but never offer us a clue on how to achieve it.

Give us some clues, RMS. At the very least, show us where to look for the clues, please !

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (5, Insightful)

gagol (583737) | about 10 months ago | (#45572733)

Paper money still exist and it is anonymous by design, cheap and accessible to everybody on earth, not just the tech-haves. Technology is not always the answer.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (4, Informative)

gigaherz (2653757) | about 10 months ago | (#45572771)

In many countries, it's illegal to make paper money transactions over a certain amount of money.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about 10 months ago | (#45572827)

In many countries, it's illegal to make paper money transactions over a certain amount of money.

In other countries; the US included -- it is illegal to make paper money transactions over a certain amount: without filing a Cash Transaction Report (CTR), or under other conditions (e.g. A transaction $0.01 less than the reporting threshold; or multiple transactions suspected to be a structured transfer), a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), with the feds.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (0)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#45572831)

In many countries, it's illegal to make paper money transactions over a certain amount of money.

Really? Where? I know that some countries there are limits on taking money in and out, and in most countries large withdrawals and deposits from banks are reported, but where is it illegal to pay by paper money over a certain amount?

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572943)

In the [banana?] republic of Italy.

No personal, or business transaction (no matter if invoiced or not, no matter if you are doing transaction with the State itself) in paper money over 999 euro is allowed, and if you own a no profit the limit IIRC is 516 euro. It is possible to deposit whatever amount to banks and let them do the transaction.
Officially to combat crime and fiscal evasion.

Electronic money is more anonymous faster and more dangerous than paper money, once those handling it are powerful enough to trade internationally. Nothing has been done on that front. Therefore I guess the measure was to benefit the banking system in the short term, and the effects till now seems to confirm it. Those who could have been hampered by tracing have enough resources to resort to middlemen, obviously.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#45572979)

Wow, That's really low. I had no idea that any EU country had such a restriction.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (2)

vikingpower (768921) | about 10 months ago | (#45573037)

That is Italy-specific, within the legal framework of the ( much-needed ) fight against the mafia and camorra.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572947)

In Spain it is illegal to make direct cash payments over 2500 EUR. I think in some other EU countries there are also cash limits (i.e. France: 3000 EUR, Portugal 1000)

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572969)

Italy, for instance. You may only pay less than 1000 Euro in cash.

In other countries such as Germany there is no direct limit on the cash amount, but if you pay more than 10000 Euro in cash you need to be able to present proof where the money came from, or otherwise you may be arrested for money laundering. Besides, who will accept so much cash if he's not allowed to put it on a bank account afterwards?

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (4, Funny)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 10 months ago | (#45573147)

Besides, who will accept so much cash if he's not allowed to put it on a bank account afterwards?

I'll gladly accept it.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (5, Informative)

ray-auch (454705) | about 10 months ago | (#45572983)

In the UK, and probably across the EU, it is not illegal, but there are laws that make it practically impossible.

Over a threshold (10k GBP, 15k euros I think), there are additional reporting and documentation requirements for cash transactions. It's enough hassle, and risk, for the recipient that you will struggle to find anyone (legitimate) that will take that much in cash. You could insist that you think it's your legal right to pay that way, but then you risk them calling the police who will simply confiscate the cash, because anything over the same limits they can assume is "proceeds of crime". Sure, you can go to court and try and get it back, and some have succeeded, makes your lawyer a lot richer though, and is not exactly anonymous...

In theory, you can still carry cash, and make transactions, over the threshold level, but in practice you risk being considered a criminal for doing it, and effectively you cannot do it anonymously [which was the aim of the laws].

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (5, Informative)

vikingpower (768921) | about 10 months ago | (#45573053)

In the Netherlands, a man was recently controlled by police ( routine identity control, the police need not even give a reason for the control, but that is another chapter of the nascent-police-state discussion ). He carried € 30,000 in a plastic bag with him, and could not provide immediate proof for the money's origin. He was arrested. Only after a couple of day, when nobody could prove the money's illegal origin, he was released. Without the money, which remained at the police precincts. Injustice ? Yes. Police state ? Yes. But this anecdote adds another bit of momentum to Stallman's plea.

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572987)

Zealotcoin!

Re:What RMS has in mind ? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45573199)

You pay in open-source software.
The more software you open up, the more money you have.

RMS calls for Zerocoin (5, Interesting)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 10 months ago | (#45572597)

Zerocoin is an extension to Bitcoin. It has been implemented in some altcoin(s) already IIRC.
http://zerocoin.org/ [zerocoin.org]

Altcoins (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 10 months ago | (#45572607)

There are so many kinds of altcoins that they are no longer funny.

From litecons to worldcoins to feathrecoins to bbq to your "zerocoins" ... which one of them will survive, and worse, which one of them are pure scams ?

...Extension... (2)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 10 months ago | (#45572611)

Zerocoin is an *extension* to Bitcoin - if it is accepted as part of Bitcoin then it will be part of Bitcoin. Because it has been developed as a library (and documented) altcoins can use it too. TLDR: it doesn't matter which coin comes out on top because they can all use it.

There are more than ONE extension to Bitcoin (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 10 months ago | (#45572617)

There is another altcoin with the name of "Bitcoin 2".

Yep, they TOO claim to be the extension/I to Bitcoin

But when you talk to people who do serious mining, they'd laughed at that thought.

Point? (1)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 10 months ago | (#45572633)

The price of eggs?

Re: There are more than ONE extension to Bitcoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572897)

"serious mining" I laughed at that

Re:...Extension... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#45572921)

how does it work then? mixes up the coins? and by extension do you mean that 50%-100% of bitcoin users would have to start using it now or that you can just use it with your transactions now?

by the way, just developing an anonymous payment platform is shit easy(just take money in and send money out). being allowed to operate one is not!(unless you're called western union).

developing a new crypto money that would gain the acceptance of bitcoin though is rather hard, so looking into how to anonymize/mix up bitcoin is the feasible way to go with.

Re:RMS calls for Zerocoin (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572625)

Zerocoin is an extension to Bitcoin. It has been implemented in some altcoin(s) already IIRC.

I'm not too keen on the detais, but if I remember correctly you had to explicitly specify that you wanted to "hide" a transaction when making a zero-coin transaction. That and I think the "hidden" transactions incurred quite a computational and storage cost on the blockchain.

Blockchain (5, Interesting)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 10 months ago | (#45572643)

The size Bitcoin blockchain is quite problematic. The size is huge. What is really needed is a system where coins outside of circulation lose value so that the length of the blockchain can be easily kept to a manageable size because lost coins will disappear and the amount of history you have to keep (and verify) will be much smaller.

I think the emunie project had an interesting approach to making verification quick and efficient but I can't remember the specifics.

Re:Blockchain (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#45572671)

That makes some sense to me, but conflicts with some of the original gold-esque ideology of Bitcoin, of wanting to be an indefinite store of value in which depreciation (in the monetary sense) is impossible.

Depreciation (1)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 10 months ago | (#45572713)

Depreciation isn't really the right word. You can keep value indefinitely - as long as you move the money periodically. You don't have to actually spend it. Perhaps you could mark some addresses as being "storage" addresses so that people can keep cold wallets without worrying... But that runs the danger of being confusing or people just marking every address and cold storage (perhaps increased transaction fees could discourage this).

Re:Blockchain (5, Interesting)

Jesrad (716567) | about 10 months ago | (#45572709)

Yes the size of the blockchain is fast becoming a problem, especially now that enthusiasm about Bitcoins is growing much faster than the technological means to store the blockchain. Also, the size of every block is going to grow explosively as soon as online services everywhere start accepting bitcoins as payment option, and THAt will be much more problematic.

But then, it'll just drive some more division of labor, with people storing the blockchain and verifying transactions getting paid for the service, much like what is happening now in the mining part. There will definitely be growing pains and I can foresee a near-term future where transactions get a LONG time to validate because miners are swamped with transaction volume.

As for your suggestion, it cannot apply to Bitcoin in any way or shape. Reducing the size of the blockchain means making a "summary" of it where all the wallets that are now zero get short-circuited in the transaction history. i.e 'wallet A sends 1 BTC to wallet B which then sends it to wallet C', you shorten it as 'Wallet A sends 1 BTC to wallet C'. But that eschews the hashing process entirely, so it cannot be done trustfully AFAIK.

Re:Blockchain (0, Troll)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 10 months ago | (#45572743)

Yes the size of the blockchain is fast becoming a problem, especially now that enthusiasm about Bitcoins is growing much faster than the technological means to store the blockchain. Also, the size of every block is going to grow explosively as soon as online services everywhere start accepting bitcoins as payment option, and THAt will be much more problematic.

But then, it'll just drive some more division of labor, with people storing the blockchain and verifying transactions getting paid for the service, much like what is happening now in the mining part. There will definitely be growing pains and I can foresee a near-term future where transactions get a LONG time to validate because miners are swamped with transaction volume.

As for your suggestion, it cannot apply to Bitcoin in any way or shape. Reducing the size of the blockchain means making a "summary" of it where all the wallets that are now zero get short-circuited in the transaction history. i.e 'wallet A sends 1 BTC to wallet B which then sends it to wallet C', you shorten it as 'Wallet A sends 1 BTC to wallet C'. But that eschews the hashing process entirely, so it cannot be done trustfully AFAIK.

Can I just ask your opinion, how does this protect someone who buys into Bitcoin from it actually being a Ponzi scheme?

Re:Blockchain (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572955)

It's orthogonal. The Ponzi aspect is due to the mining reward structure in the early days. That, and the current volatility, which makes it much easier to classify BitCoin as not being (a good form of) money. This is relevant because (as noted by the thread starter) there are other digital currencies that do not have the same bootstrapping problem that BitCoin faced.

Nice troll but the answer is actually short too, sorry.

Re:Blockchain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45573153)

Well to be honest the vast majority of people who first hear about Bitcoin pass it off as yet another Ponzi scheme, so it's a fair question. The fact that Bitcoin hasn't matured (ie: maxed out) doesn't mean it won't later collapse, and each Ponzi scheme is never quite like the one before. So it's a very important to be assured.

Re:Blockchain (2)

gordo3000 (785698) | about 10 months ago | (#45572973)

your question is pretty unrelated. BTC are as much a ponzi scheme as fancy diamonds or gold is a ponzi scheme. when you buy them, you are doing it right now with the explicit expectation that you can/will find someone else to buy it from you for a greater amount.

BTC, at the very least, can already be used as a currency in transactions, but the amount it is being used for transactions is so small it's pretty irrelevant.

Just like gold or diamonds, the value could collapse if people decide it's not worth their money. I guess on the downside you don't have billions of women saying "oooooh, shiny" to keep the value up like gold and diamonds, so as a spec investment, it has that risk.

Re:Blockchain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45573183)

The US dollar has been called a Ponzi scheme. It and Bitcoin are the same in that they are both fiat currencies, only Bitcoin is "better" because it cannot be regulated by a central body. Relevance to the question is that when we read or hear about Ponzi schemes, it's all padded with "well of course so and so has to do such and such and this and that will happen, after which that and that will need to happen" to give the whole thing some realism. At least with the US dollar, as much as I make sure I own as little as possible of it (it's no good investment), I can say I know the Ponzi aspect of it, I am fully aware of its vulnerabilities and how it is being manipulated, so I don't mind using it as a currency.

At least with the US dollar, if someone fails to pay, it can mean the equivalent of a bullet in the head (individuals) or a bomb on the head (nations) .. that is what keeps it tangible, since Gold backing is nearly non existent.

Give me a currency that is both electronic and physical, yet also allows for anonymity when I need it. If it's too hard, then I think we just have to find better ways of trading normal currencies anonymously.

Re:Blockchain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572975)

Why would I want to protect someone who wants to buy into a Ponzi scheme? I'd rather just point and laugh.

Re:Blockchain (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 10 months ago | (#45573091)

However, you could shorten the blockchain by calculaing the balances and then dropping the old blocks.

A mines 50BTC (before the reduction)
some time later A sends to B 10BTC.
then B sends to C 4BTC.
C sends to A 1BTC.

This could be simplified (when the transactions get a couple of years old) to
A: 41BTC
B: 6BTC
C: 3BTC

Now when A, B or C sends coins, you can just check it against their balance and all transactions since then.

Re:RMS calls for Zerocoin (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#45572837)

Zerocoin is an extension to Bitcoin. It has been implemented in some altcoin(s) already IIRC.

I'm not too keen on the detais, but if I remember correctly you had to explicitly specify that you wanted to "hide" a transaction when making a zero-coin transaction. That and I think the "hidden" transactions incurred quite a computational and storage cost on the blockchain.

You missed one key word. From zerocoin.org [zerocoin.org] :

Zerocoin is a proposed extension to the Bitcoin payment network.

ZeroCoin (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572629)

So RMS wants the same thing as everyone else in the Crypto-Currency community. Good for him (If only he would contribute something other than a desire...). I only know of one design that gives both anonymity and decentralization, and thats ZeroCoin [zerocoin.org] which has major performance problems (it is not currently scaleable in any practical sense). In my opinion bitcoin does not scale well either, but at least it scales drastically further than ZeroCoin.

David Chaum's Digital Cash [wikipedia.org] provides anonymity without decentralization, and bitcoin provides decentralization without anonymity.

Reminds me of how RMS wants Emacs to become WYSIWG [gnu.org] , but seems opposed to using existing solutions, or implementing it himself, or actually making a feature list or design for it himself. RMS is good at taking positions on issues, and does a good job representing his particular viewpoint, but I wouldn't expect much more out of him.

Re:ZeroCoin (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572691)

Chaum is another weirdy beardy, and so paranoid that he makes RMS look like a beacon of sanity.
We need more stable people in the geek community. Stable people with people skills who can code like gods.
We need to up our game.

Re:ZeroCoin (5, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | about 10 months ago | (#45572703)

It's disappointing that Stallman buys into this pipe dream.

Bitcoin worked (works) because it's not anonymous. Fundamentally, if you have dirty coin, you need someone with clean coins to help you. There's no reason people with clean coins should help you.

The zerocoin proposal is akin to an agreement that everyone should trade their bikes one for one upon request. Sure, that'd be great for bike thieves - that hot bike you just stole you can just trade for some else's clean bike!

Would that work? Sure, it would work. It would make bikes anonymous, and overcome the problem that they are identifiable (with serial numbers, colors, etc.). The question is what the hell would be in in for legitimate bike owners?

Stallman should accept that sharing and modifying software is one thing, sharing and modifying information that is used as a token of agreement (passwords, signatures, contracts, licenses, "written by Richard Stallman" notices etc.) quite another.

Transfer of property claims are not a private matter - not if you want everyone else to respect those property claims.

From a practical perspective, anonymous payment would legalise corruption, legalise money laundering (to the disadvantage of everyone having more money in the legitimate economy than in the criminal one), and legalise tax evasion. You got to be a pretty kooky libertarian type to think that's a good idea.

The long-term view (3, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 10 months ago | (#45572791)

Would that work? Sure, it would work. It would make bikes anonymous, and overcome the problem that they are identifiable (with serial numbers, colors, etc.). The question is what the hell would be in in for legitimate bike owners?

There is a difference between short-term and long-term benefits. In the short term, there is no benefit for someone "swapping bikes". In the case of digital currency, there is no short-term benefit for swapping coins, but there is no loss either.

In the long term however, having anonymous currency removes opportunities for oppression and corruption in government, manipulation and injustice. The bike-swappers enjoy a stronger, more robust government which has less opportunity to screw with their lives.

Of course, every change must be considered in the context of alternatives. Digital currency removes opportunity for manipulation by bad people, but also allows for bad usage. People will buy guns without being traced, people will buy contraband without being caught, and people will buy magazines with unapproved content. We'll have to transition away from "thought crime" ("conspiricy to grow marijuana [gloucestercitizen.co.uk] " is my favourite) to a more "action oriented" crime: people will be jailed not for planning to do things or for researching how to do things, rather they will be jailed for actually doing things.

Whether society is better by big brother guessing our intent or judging our actions is a question worthy of debate. ...but swapping money to achieve anonymity is valuable in its own right.

Re:The long-term view (5, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | about 10 months ago | (#45572833)

"In the case of digital currency, there is no short-term benefit for swapping coins, but there is no loss either."

Are you kidding? There's a major loss; making theft virtually untraceable and thus making theft considerably more attractive. Now even the not-so-clever criminals in western easy-to-reach-by-the-law countries can get in on the online theft game. Not just those that are good at hiding their tracks or are in countries that won't cooperate with your own country's police.

If someone steals your digital coins, they may end up virtually (ha!) anywhere, with little or no chance of ever find them again.

This is what we had with a cash-only economy, except much, much worse, since the thieves don't have to be physically close to you or your money. For most people, moving away from a cash-only economy has had the great benefit that their accumulated wealth is much better protected.

Also, corruption (which anonymous currency is fantastic for) is hardly a "friendly thought-crime which doesn't affect others".

Re:ZeroCoin (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 10 months ago | (#45572839)

What about nibbling some of it all away the whole time it's stored? As tax of wealth?

But then it may be hard to convince people to use it.

Re:ZeroCoin (4, Insightful)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 10 months ago | (#45572927)

The same applies for cash, but people dont hesitate to use it. They dont really see it as clean cash and dirty cash. Cash is cash.

Re:ZeroCoin (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 10 months ago | (#45572935)

To add to that, you might already know the stats about % of notes with traces of cocaine in them. I dont see it bothering people. Well they never know if the cash they have is dirty or clean. The same applies here, they dont know if the coins they have are dirty or clean, they just see at as any other physical coin.

Re:ZeroCoin (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572967)

Cocaine is a fine powder. Machines that handle, count and sort cash cause powder from one bill to get on a number of others.

Re:ZeroCoin (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#45573075)

But cash is hard to automate. Washing $100 you stole from someone's wallet clean is easy, you just go shopping. But washing $1 mio. you picked up in a drug deal or bank robbery isn't that easy anymore.

Re:ZeroCoin (2)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 10 months ago | (#45573159)

The same applies for cash, but people dont hesitate to use it. They dont really see it as clean cash and dirty cash. Cash is cash.

Yup. There needs to remain a way for people to use cash, without letting a single "dirty" transaction taint the whole (block)chain of transactions.

This is why I have a problem with money laundering laws -- it's not the money's fault if it's being used for something illegal. Money laundering laws are like monitoring everyone's Internet traffic for the off chance that something illegal takes place online, surely we'd never do anything like that...

Re:ZeroCoin (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 10 months ago | (#45573025)

Basically anonymous money allows digital currency to sink tax havens. So on the one hand both anonymous money and tank will have the same core function servicing criminal activity, on the other hand when digital currency is attacked, third party persons tend not to suffer as all those people who live in tax havens but are not directly or indirectly involved in financial services to facilitate crime.

The only acceptable 'Anonymous' money is free labour, for example those who already donate their efforts to 'Anonymous' for free, other than that it is quite simply the fuel for criminality and evil. Whilst it might have some positive benefit, that positive benefit is far better serviced for free. Stallman has made a severe error in judgement, anonymous money has nothing to to with free support and has none of it's qualities, nor it's security from corruption.

Re:ZeroCoin (4, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45572807)

So RMS wants the same thing as everyone else in the Crypto-Currency community. Good for him (If only he would contribute something other than a desire...).
...
Reminds me of how RMS wants Emacs to become WYSIWG [gnu.org], but seems opposed to using existing solutions, or implementing it himself, or actually making a feature list or design for it himself.

Maybe you missed that whole GNU project thing. He contributed so much he can barely type without a special low pressure keyboard anymore because his hands are ruined from all the contributing ungrateful fucks like you ignore. Now he contributes the best way he can via public awareness, speeches, etc. When he's dead I bet you'll be bitching about how his corpse doesn't even advocate for free software anymore.

When I was a teen I only new a little ASM and some BASIC. I wanted to make games with smooth scrolling graphics, but BASIC was too slow. I complained on local a BBS's BASIC board about the predicament and the sarcastic response was, "If BASIC is too slow, make your own damn language." So, with only a rudimentary knowledge of x86 assembly, and not a single programming lesson, I did just that. I had wasted months of fighting to increase performance of my BASIC program: It only took a couple of weeks to make an interpretor and then a simple compiler for my language and it faster than BASIC (didn't need a runtime.exe either). It had just never occurred to me that I could make my own programming language -- or anything wholly in ASM for that matter. My sarcastic friend was impressed and surprised that I had heeded his bad advice, and we both sold software on Compuserve built with my language for years afterwards, no expensive C compiler / license required. The point is that making a suggestion, or getting the idea out there is sometimes all it takes to cause something to spring into existence.

RMS is good at taking positions on issues, and does a good job representing his particular viewpoint, but I wouldn't expect much more out of him.

So, he's good at what he does, and though he doesn't claim to do the grunt work of implementing or designing stuff anymore, we shouldn't expect him to? Gotcha. Additionally: You're essentially in agreement with RMS if you think that we need a workable anonymous crypto currency -- You essentially said so yourself by mentioning that Zerocoin has performance problems. Hey, maybe a protocol that was built for anonymity from the ground up wouldn't suffer such performance problems? His advice when re-implementing a UNIX tool is to aim for different goals. If theirs is fast, aim for less memory consumption instead; If theirs is processor intensive, aim for stability instead; or vise versa -- This way the implementations will be very different even if they serve the same ends. In other words, what RMS and I know is that just because Zerocoin or BASIC exists doesn't mean there's only one way to skin the cat.

I have a thought about where this all came from (2)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 10 months ago | (#45572639)

Bitcoin has been around for quite a while, and nothing special seemed to be happening with it. Then along came the Wikileaks release of information that genuinely infuriated the United States. All of a sudden, PayPal, several imitators and all the major credit card companies decided not to process donations to the organization.

Time passes, and people who might not want the United States to have final say over their financial arrangements were just starting to move lazily toward some form of anonymous money transfer.

Then the Snowden situation arose, and those people got their noses rubbed in the fact that the kind of spying and control they were worried about in a vague way was on-going, comprehensive, and aimed at everybody from heads of state to some granny who attended an Occupy demonstration.

So they got the message: We need a way to move money anonymously, and we need it right this minute.

Enter Bitcoin. (dramatic music)

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (5, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#45572685)

Governments not only back money, they also want to control it. For good reason (at least good from their point of view). At the very least they want to control its flow. Money is a tool for control, maybe the easiest. You can incite people, you can convince people, you can inspire people to do your bidding, but the easiest way to make them do it is money. Given enough of it, you will almost certainly find enough people to do what you want to happen.

Now, if you not only control who you can give money, but who anyone else can give money, control is yours. Not only can you make people do your bidding, you can deny others the same.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45573093)

Quote: "Let me issue a nations money and I care not who makes its laws"

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (3, Informative)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 10 months ago | (#45572721)

We need a way to move money anonymously, and we need it right this minute.

1. Cash
2. Barter
3. Disposable credit cards purchased with cash

But what about Bitcoin? It allows you to stow away massive amounts of money in an untouchable way... kind of nice but it's not without its problems. Is it in society's interest that people can move huge amounts of money without them or the government knowing? It can be very much to our detriment, such as being unable to stem the proceeds of crime that flow out of a country into another, unable to check the movement of money by foreign government sponsored subversion, and so forth. I know that nobody has been realistically able to stop the illegal transportation of gold, but why should we make the task of money laundering easier than before?

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

anagama (611277) | about 10 months ago | (#45572785)

In Canada and Europe there are some services like UKash: https://www.ukash.com/en-GB/ [ukash.com]

You go up to the counter in a minimart, hand over cash, get a ticket with a number on it, sort of like an account number I guess. You can then spend that online till you are out of money providing of course that the site accepts UKash. https://www.ukash.com/en-GB/whats-ukash/ [ukash.com]

I don't know if there is anything like that in the US, but it comes close to anonymous ... of course there's the security video footage at the store (maybe), and if there is shipment involved, the receipt address, and your IP address when ordering -- but all of those things could be handled.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

anagama (611277) | about 10 months ago | (#45572789)

oops, I meant to replace the first link with the second link, not double up. Anyway, the first link is more marketingish, the second link is a little more informative about the process, although what I said above basically outlines it.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | about 10 months ago | (#45572797)

Disposable credit cards purchased with cash

No such beast in Australia AFAICT. You can pay cash for the card but you have to activate it online with the usual intrusive questioning.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 10 months ago | (#45572873)

You can pay cash for the card and load it at the counter with cash. No questions asked.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45573203)

Can you do that at a store that isn't coincidentally recording you with security cameras?

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 10 months ago | (#45572867)

But what about Bitcoin? It allows you to stow away massive amounts of money in an untouchable way...

erm... amounts of money which today may seem massive and tomorrow very very easily be a fucking LOT less massive!

Also, amounts of money which, when you view the value of bitcoins at the exchanges seem massive but when you try to cash in a fuckton of bitcoins suddenly the value shrinks a lot.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (5, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | about 10 months ago | (#45572723)

Bitcoin money transfers are not anonymous. They're pseudonymous - at best.

A good example is wikileaks itself. In order to receive donations, it needs to have a public address. They have, and it's completely transparent - we can see exactly how much Wikileaks has received at that address: 3,795.80380943 bitcoins. They have a balance on it of 1,111.97135027 bitcoins, or roughly a million dollars at today's prices.

Think about it. There's no economy that's more transparent to the public than the bitcoin economy. And that's a good thing. In the conventional economy, banks, credit card companies and governments can see more than we can see in the block chain, but it's completely hidden for us.

Stop trying to fight or deny the transparency of bitcoin. It's a strength, not a weakness. Governments could have effectively stopped bitcoin payments to wikileaks too, by making it a crime to give or receive money from wikileaks. Since everything is so transparent, that would have been really effective. But it would also be bare-faced tyranny. It's much more convenient for them to be able to suppress wikileaks by having private companies make the decision to not offer service, officially on their own.

Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572851)

But wikileaks could have just easily setup their donation page to show a new bitcoin address to any visitor donating. In that case, you can't track their balance or donators that simply.

Dramatic imminent danger music (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572749)

I salute the idea of bitcoin but I don't feel like having my life savings pillaged overnight. Also, it's not like gold as some people make out. Gold is a bubble that can never truly burst as it has intrinsic value and thousands of years of use. Gold can and does get manipulated but is never cheap. Bitcoin can be worse than the Zimbabwe dollar in its fluctuations (already shown) and that's no good for sensible economics - it's far too easily manipulated - in the hands of far too few, dependent on a centralized, and increasingly unsecure internet. If I was wealthy, I'd have some bitcoins in my arsenal, but for the average joe, there's really no point. They're not liquid enough, easily exchangeable enough (in reality) for staple goods etc. ,dependable enough, or intrinsically valuable enough. Really, I'm not surprised the Feds legalized them. They're a mobs wet dream - easily pillaged, easily manipulated and ultimately useless. We've gone from the gold standard, silver and bronze to zinc, copper, and then to paper, then to plastic, and now we're finally headed to unsecure monoply money grade bits on a computer. It's pathetic.

Re:Dramatic imminent danger music (1)

Blakkandekka (924328) | about 10 months ago | (#45572923)

True. Gold's failure mode is jewellery. Failed BitCoins are just a vacuum in the information space. Having said that, good luck getting your savings if your bank goes bust.

Paper money (3, Informative)

x0ra (1249540) | about 10 months ago | (#45572645)

It already exists, it's called bank note and coins, especially the US Dollars. Why try to re-invent the wheel ? It is the main way to exchange goods anonymously in the whole world. As long as enough people believe in and trust its value, it will continue to run. While some anarchist might argue that there is no place for a state controlled money, this argument is not really valid here. That argument has more to do with the fact that too much rely on it. What we are trying to assert here is the level of anonymity of the currency.

Re:Paper money (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572653)

bank notes are 'online'?

Re:Paper money (2)

x0ra (1249540) | about 10 months ago | (#45572689)

The problem is to create an anonymous currency, not whether or not it is online or IRL. That being said, there will be no anonymous online currency without online anonymity, something that nobody (ie. neither tech companies or government) wants in these time of erosion of public liberties.

Re:Paper money (1)

Eskarel (565631) | about 10 months ago | (#45572751)

Regular people don't really want pure online anonymity either. They might think they want it, but that anonymity comes with a pretty major price.

Re:Paper money (2)

Liam Kelly (3057923) | about 10 months ago | (#45572659)

This is about an anonymous virtual currency, though. At the moment, as far as I'm aware, it's impossible to 100% anonymously send money online. As for using bank notes and coins, that's obviously not an option online and not all transactions nowadays can be done in-person cash-in-hand.

Re:Paper money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572693)

At the moment, as far as I'm aware, it's impossible to 100% anonymously send money online.

Couldn't you just buy one of those prepaid Visa gift cards and then send the CC details (number, exp. date, and 3-digit security code) via anonymous secure means??

Re:Paper money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572667)

It's pretty hard to transfer paper money over the world anonymously. If you do it electronically, you are traced. If you do it in person, it's not cheap or convenient. With bitcoins, you are pseudononymous and your transaction is processed electronically and relatively quickly.

Re:Paper money (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#45572675)

You can also mail it through the postal service. Works okay for modest amounts in the first world, and is not that uncommon. Just conceal the money a bit so someone can't see it through the envelope, and as long as you're not in the kind of country where the postman routinely steals mail, it'll arrive fine.

Re:Paper money (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#45572679)

I tried to use it to pay online, but my business partner complained the bills I faxed ain't legal tender.

Re:Paper money (3, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 10 months ago | (#45572739)

I tried to use it to pay online, but my business partner complained the bills I faxed ain't legal tender.

This is a good point. Credit card companies and banks use promisory notes (credit) and we trust them that the electronic transactions become real at the other end.

The problem with Bitcoin is it is a floating currency and it is prone to price fluctuation that means its meaningfulness as a means of monetary exchange is currently dwarfed by its speculative importance.

And consider this also: Bitcoin mining depends on processing power. Who has most of that? The very people no one trusts anymore (finally!). Money does not just have to be based on a finite resource, but an honest resource. It needs to be off the grid, independent of power companies (no power, no electricity to do your Bitcoin transactions!), telco's (no internet, no Bitcoin). To store value I would still favor metals, and for day to day anonymous purchasing there are better ways.

Mod Up + (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572775)

But no matter how many times you go on about this, there will be bitcoin pedants that say it's changing and becoming more accepted. That's fine if you're not one of the people that lost 100,000 in the last theft. It's play dough and always will be imo. It's no different to exchanging D&D cards, missions etc. Not for grown ups, or people that live above ground, i.e not in basements.

Ultimately, communists want to take everything from you, and leave you without the clothes on your back. So, there may not be a solution, but real tangible things are the stuff they try to contain. They could give a crap about crapcoins in circulation as they seem to own them already. I mean come on, processing power for scarcity. Talk about playing directly into their hands.

Re:Paper money (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 10 months ago | (#45572829)

Scan it and send it as an email attachment.

Re:Paper money (2)

dworz (50185) | about 10 months ago | (#45572747)

What makes you think bank notes are anonymous? They have serial numbers. I just assume the government scans them at every ATM, Bank and other "trusted" money I/Os...

Re:Paper money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572901)

This.
Bank notes are not anonymous at all.

Re:Paper money (1)

ArmoredDragon (3450605) | about 10 months ago | (#45572911)

Not exactly reinventing the wheel here. Bitcoin can't be counterfeited and the supply is mostly finite (more can't be manufactured, or dug out of this planet or another one.) These two alone make it something that hasn't been done before. (The concept of virtual money HAS been done though; most US dollars for example don't exist as physical cash, and the virtual ones are created and destroyed by the billions daily.)

Bitcoin is actually very democratic when you think about it. More can be created, but only if the majority of existing bitcoin holders agree to do so. Anonymity can be achieved with BIP0032.

pron-coin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572649)

There - I said it - PRON coin - thats why we're all here

Paysafe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572663)

Isn't paysafe 100% anonymous? ...

Let's call it (4, Funny)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 10 months ago | (#45572665)

Private Online Reserve Notes!

I have no idea how to implement it, but good things should have good names!

Re:Let's call it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572991)

> I have no idea how to implement it

ask mom.

And before the "but the criminals" comments come (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#45572673)

"But then criminals will have a way to transfer money completely anonymously, too"

Newsflash: They already do. Their "problem" is just that it's costly. They need to employ quite a few mules and split the money. That's fine and dandy if you're getting money from blackmail where it doesn't matter whether you get 90% or 70% of the illegal assets you squeeze out of your patsy, less so if you are trying to run a legitimate business.

What? Oh, why someone would like to buy anonymously even if it's legit what he buys? Well, maybe because he doesn't want anyone to know that he's buying porn or (legal) drugs, that he buys information certain entities do not want him to have. There's plenty of stuff that is perfectly legal to buy, sell and possess, but embarrassing.

Re:And before the "but the criminals" comments com (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572857)

It's not that costly if the drug dealer actually work for (or in) the government. It is also not costly if the big banks cooperate with drug dealers. Sure, if the banks get caught, the relevant people will be sent to jail ..... ha haa haaaa, as if.

Re:And before the "but the criminals" comments com (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 10 months ago | (#45572989)

What? Oh, why someone would like to buy anonymously even if it's legit what he buys? Well, maybe because he doesn't want anyone to know that he's buying porn or (legal) drugs, that he buys information certain entities do not want him to have. There's plenty of stuff that is perfectly legal to buy, sell and possess, but embarrassing.

There's also plenty of stuff that is perfectly illegal to buy, sell and possess, and some for very good reasons. For the embarrassing stuff, complete anonymity doesn't help you hiding stuff from your wife, because she still sees money disappearing from bank accounts and you have to explain that. If she doesn't notice that, then your bank will sell you a credit-card like thing where you have to pay in money and then can use it without anyone else knowing.

One percent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572677)

A truly anonymous currency will only enable the one percent to even more thoroughly hide their money. How will the great the the good acquire the means to do the good work of Government when the money is hidden?

RMS (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572735)

Stopped reading right there

With all due respect to (1)

purnima (243606) | about 10 months ago | (#45572825)

RMS, I watched the interview on youtube, and I don't think that he understood the anonymity issues of Bitcoin. He's not on top of the issues or the technology.

He has in mind markets with one-sided-anonymity in which the seller is known (a big cooperation) to the buyer while the buyer is anonymous to the seller. Basically he's thinking about online shopping with Walmart on one side and an anonymous buyer on the buyers side. Bitcoin provides anonymity in both directions seller-buyer, which he did not seem to appreciate. Bitcoin allows for anonymous markets and not simply anonymous buying. Bitcoin has the potential to change how we conduct commerce and not simply to facilitate privacy in exiting market structures.

Also, I simply could not understand his statement that "we have had the anonymity technology (his kind of anonymity) for decades". I really don't think that he was thinking of zerocoin.

Bitcoin is not "not anonymous" (2)

gox (1595435) | about 10 months ago | (#45572853)

No system can guarantee anonymity. Bitcoin transactions are completely traceable. On contrast, DigiCash transactions were completely untraceable. However, neither of these statements tells us about how much anonymity one can achieve using them.

When you buy Bitcoin from a company by identifying yourself to them, and then directly transfer the money to, say, a publicly known donation address of Wikileaks, you surely are perfectly identifiable. However, anything slightly more complicated than this quickly becomes impractical to analyze. Even with a considerable amount of data, scientists who claim they can trace identities screw up:

http://www.businessinsider.com/silk-road-satoshi-paper-retraction-2013-11 [businessinsider.com]

Sure, they can use the system to try to gather some statistics about usage or try to infiltrate Bitcoin services to accumulate as much personal data as possible, but it's quite easy to fool these systems and people who have something to worry about can figure these out easily.

Let's begin seeing Bitcoin for what it is: A distributed decentralized notarization system. That's all there is to it. You can build all sorts of features on top of this. There are already implemented anonymization solutions, both third party and protocol-level, that work on top of Bitcoin. Or, maybe, what you want is some payment system that supports chargebacks? Sure, that is easy to implement on top of an irreversible payment system; Bitcoin supports different signature schemes at the protocol level. Maybe you don't need a payment system, but want to notarize a document? Sure, you can even use the blockchain to copyright your work. So an and so forth.

Bounty coins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572881)

There should be a sciencecoin attached to a bounty for processing scientific information.

It Exists: Anoncoin (1)

Lazydriver (1821680) | about 10 months ago | (#45572909)

Anoncoin allows the transactions to take place over darknets. You could, theoretically, buy Bitcoins, trade them into Anoncoins, send those Anoncoins to an address over a darknet, then that person could turn those Anoncoins back into Bitcoins and then back into fiat. Much more difficult to trace. It's the only altcoin I actually believe in other than Litecoin. Anoncoin has a unique purpose that people will actually use, unlike say, BBQCoin.

About Anoncoin (2)

nu1x (992092) | about 10 months ago | (#45572929)

You forgot to add that Anoncoin uses i2p to implement darknet transfers.

Also, the devs seem to be actually competent.

https://anoncoin.net/ [anoncoin.net]

How about... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572913)

...we call it GNU/Bitcoin?

Stallman needs a new hobby after having run out of people to remind that it's actually GNU/Linux (just ask him!)... plus, he can puff and wheeze about how much better his version is, because it's all free and GNU and stuff.

Toka koka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45572951)

> Bitcoin virtually as valuable as gold

Let me translate such new-speak to plain old bardian english: tulip bud frenzy.

To be more verbose: place a vessel full of lead grains onto a six-core, multiple-GPU computer running Bitcoin calculations and wait until the lead melts. Drop some genuine black dutch tulip buds into the vial, while reciting the ten coloumns of the Sephirot in reverse and making sure NOT to think of the white elephant. If you do this while the Moon is in the seventh house and don't forget to add the blood of an unshaven ram, the result will be pure gold.

Anonymous payment system (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45573011)

It's called cash.

As valuable as gold (3, Interesting)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 10 months ago | (#45573141)

Pretty sure that however many electrons it takes to encode it, Bitcoin's price by mass is a few orders of magnitude more than gold.

Of course, 1 BTC is roughly 9E-8 of the overall supply (4.8E-9 of the theoretical cap); one ounce of gold is about 1.81E-10 (assuming 171,300 tons of gold in total). As a fraction of world supply, that makes gold still about 1000 times more valuable than BTC.

Once more, with feeling: (2)

some old guy (674482) | about 10 months ago | (#45573221)

As long as any government or criminal has the will and resources to break a security system, it will. This is a 100% certainty. Obfuscation, encryption, and ambiguity merely annoy and inconvenience the bastards. Nothing will stop them except political and/or law enforcement action. Attempts at technical solutions are just bumps in the yellow brick road.

Given the above, we should be skeptical (OK, cynical) enough to see proposals and products that pretend to solve the problem as just marketing crappola. Somebody is trying to sell something. In this case. RMS is proposing a hurricane-proof fart catcher. Good luck with that.

BIP32 vs ZeroCoin (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#45573235)

A lot of the comments here refer to either bip 32 [bitcoin.it] or ZeroCoin [zerocoin.org] , with their supporters giving each as a solution to bitcoin anonymity. Can anyone describe the differences for the non-cryptographer?
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