When NSA contractor Edward Snowden went on the run in 2013, he took with him a trove of classified documents that he later leaked to journalists. Among those documents were slides detailing the NSA’s efforts to track Bitcoin users.
At the time, Bitcoin was a relatively new phenomenon and was largely associated with illicit activity. The NSA saw it as a threat to its ability to track and monitor global financial transactions.
According to the leaked slides, the NSA was able to track Bitcoin users by monitoring the network of ” nodes” that power the Bitcoin system. By doing so, they were able to identify and track individual users as they sent and received Bitcoin payments.
The NSA’s ability to track Bitcoin users was made possible by the fact that all Bitcoin transactions are publically visible on the blockchain. However, at the time, many users were not aware of this fact.
The revelation that the NSA was tracking Bitcoin users caused a lot of consternation among privacy-conscious users. However, it should be noted that the NSA’s tracking efforts would have been much more difficult (if not impossible) if more users had been using privacy-enhancing technologies such as mixer services.
In conclusion, Edward Snowden’s leaks showed that the NSA was interested in tracking Bitcoin users for national security reasons. However, the agency’s efforts would have been much more difficult if more users had been using privacy-enhancing technologies.