Bitcoin payment gateways are not anonymous

Some people complain that Bitcoins are anonymous. However, Bitcoin users can be traced back to the webmaster.

The bitcoin payment gateways from Bitpay, Coinbase or Gourl mention a list of useful information in their code that can be used to track the recipient of the money. For example in the Gourl code, there is a token key that helps to identify the bitcoin beneficiary. For example, let’s imagine that a blogger writes several articles to criticize the totalitarian regime of his country. He uses a bitpay , gourl or a coinbase payment gateway to monetize his website.

GOurl.io, case study – Information collected:

Many pieces of information are collected from the use of a website using Gourl.io which will be the ground to allow tracking of a webmaster and its buyers.

Extract from the GOurl privacy policy. Information gathered.

3. Other Information 

In addition to the Personal Information that you voluntarily provide to us, we may collect additional information (collectively, the “Other Information”). Such Other Information may include: a. From Your Activity. Information that we automatically collect when you use the Services, including, without limitation: IP addresses, browser type and language, referring and exit pages and URLs, date and time, amount of time spent on particular pages, sections of the Website visited, etc.

b. From Cookies. Information that we collect using “cookie” technology. Cookies are small packets of data that a website stores on your computer’s or mobile device’s hard drive so that your computer will “remember” information about your visit. We may use both session cookies (which expire once you close your web browser) and persistent cookies (which stay on your computer until you delete them) to help us collect Other Information and to enhance your experience using the Platform. If you do not want us to place a cookie on your hard drive, you may be able to turn that feature off on your computer or mobile device. Please consult your Internet browser’s documentation for information on how to do this and how to delete persistent cookies. However, if you decide not to accept cookies from us, the Platform may not function properly. 

Webmasters can be traceable thks to companies:

Authorities and people who want to find this webmaster just have to look into the source of the payment gateway to gather information. Once they know it is a coinbase, bitpay, gourl account, they can try getting the identity of this person by contacting coinbase, bitpay, gourl.

If you think that those companies will not cooperate to disclose the information about one of their users, it is just your assumption. Whether coinbase is located in the USA or somewhere else, it does not make any difference. They can disclose the details of their users to third parties.

Interpol blue notices:

Then, if a law enforcement authority decides to prosecute the webmaster and after discovering that the payment gateway company isn’t located in the country, they will contact Interpol to issue a blue notice. This goal is “to locate, identify or obtain information on a person of interest in a criminal investigation.”  The blue notice is then received by a judge in the jurisdiction of the payment gateway company and they can force the payment gateway company to disclose information about the payment gateway user. It is theoretical. I don’t know if the receiving jurisdiction would accept to comply if the reason does not exist in the local law. Don’t forget that crimes are subjective. In some countries, it is a crime to be gay or criticize the leader of the country.

Conclusion:

When people complain about how anonymous bitcoins are, they should take into account the actual system. Few people accept manual bitcoin payments which are really anonymous.

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