When it comes to Bitcoin, there is a lot of talk about the privacy that it affords users. After all, when you use Bitcoin, your transactions are recorded on a public ledger (known as the blockchain), but your personal information is not attached to those transactions. This can lead people to believe that Bitcoin is anonymous and that the government cannot track Bitcoin transactions.
However, this is not entirely accurate. While it is true that your personal information is not attached to your Bitcoin transactions, the government can still track those transactions – and they have been doing so since 2013.
In 2013, the US government launched an investigation into the Silk Road, an online marketplace that was solely accessible via the Tor network and accepted only Bitcoin as payment. The Silk Road was used for a variety of illegal activities, including the sale of drugs, weapons, and other illicit goods.
In order to track down the people behind the Silk Road, the government used blockchain analysis to trace the Bitcoin transactions associated with the site. They were eventually able to identify and arrest Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road.
Since then, the US government has continued to use blockchain analysis to track down criminals and terrorists. In 2015, they were able to thwart an ISIS plot to attack Targets in New York City by tracking a Bitcoin transaction associated with the plot.
They have also used blockchain analysis to track down child pornography rings, drug dealers, and money launderers.
So while it is true that Bitcoin affords users a certain degree of privacy, it is not completely anonymous. The government can – and has – tracked down criminals by tracing their Bitcoin transactions.