Amazon patent wants to unmask Bitcoin users, sell data to law enforcement, others

The Tick

Amazon has a brand-new patent to its name that takes a distinctly authoritative stance against the decentralized, pseudo-anonymous nature of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. It details methods with which the global retail giant could leverage its data stores to identify the participants in Bitcoin transactions in order to sell that information on to a subscriber base, a major component of which would be law enforcement.

For many people, the best feature of Bitcoin and its altcoins is that they allow for some measure of anonymity in their use. That’s why, alongside many legitimate trading purposes, Bitcoin has been used as the financial component in ransomware scams and dark web drug sales. But even so, it’s not entirely anonymous. The blockchain itself is open and viewable by anyone and Amazon believes it can leverage enough data to help identify those behind the transactions it is used for.

The patent, originally filed in 2014 and only just recently awarded, describes a comprehensive data approach that sees Amazon working together with other retailers and telecom companies to link Bitcoin transactions with shipping addresses and IP addresses, as per CNBC. That “data stream” could then be leveraged by government authorities for tax or law enforcement purposes, the patent suggests.

In one cited example, the patent states that law enforcement agencies may be interested in ‘subscribing’ to the “data stream” of information, allowing them to access lists of “global Bitcoin transactions, correlated by country, with ISP data to determine source IP addresses and shipping addresses.”

It’s not likely to be wrong either, as the NSA has reportedly been attempting to develop a method of identifying Bitcoin users since 2013, as per Motherboard.

Although this patent may raise concerns from those hoping to remain anonymous in their Bitcoin dealings, it is important to highlight that IP addresses have proven to be not enough to convict even internet pirates in the past. Using a VPN, or a Tor connection, while making Bitcoin transactions, would immediately make Amazon’s described system redundant.

With that in mind, it may be that the Amazon patent is less interested in identifying criminals and more targeted at highlighting potential tax implications of utilizing Bitcoin to make legitimate purchases on legitimate websites. The online retail giant has yet to make any kind of public statement on the matter, so it could also be that this patent was more to shore up a potential idea or stop others from doing something similar.

One intriguing element of the patent filing however, is that it cites a 2005 patent owned by Hewlett Packard, related to cryptographic tokens. That was filed a full four years before the public launch of Bitcoin.

Product Review

The Suunto 9 multisport watch has the stamina to outlast even you

The Suunto 9 offers an astounding 120 hours of continuous tracking thanks to its intelligent battery modes and FusedTrack "GPS without GPS" tracking. We put the Suunto 9 through its paces to find out how well these features work.

Find out how Apple's new iPhones measure up to the most bezel-less designs

As the smartphone industry marches toward a bezel-less future, we compare the shrinking bezels on the latest and greatest devices. Find out which manufacturers have the smallest bezels on their smartphone as we measure them side by side.

Amazon to crack down on employees who sell confidential info to merchants

Amazon's massive growth in recent years has led to an internal black market where some employees are paid for insider data or illicit services to help merchants gain an edge. Amazon is determined to root out this corruption.
Emerging Tech

Giant NASA space laser satellite to gauge impact of climate change on ice sheets

NASA has launched its most advanced space laser satellite in history as part of a $1 billion mission to reveal how climate change has been affecting the Earth’s ice sheet surface elevation.

Edit, sign, append, and save with 12 of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Product Review

The HP Chromebook x2 takes Chrome to the next level

HP’s Chromebook x2 acts a lot like Microsoft’s Surface Book 2, with a well-equipped tablet that plugs into a keyboard base that’s heavy enough to keep the combination mostly stable. Is this premium Chromebook the best one you can buy?

Ripple cryptocurrency jumps 70 percent in 24 hours after news of bank deal

The Ripple cryptocurrency has seen its value reach the highest point since late 2017 after a tease from a Ripple Labs regulator suggested it could soon be adopted by banks for international money transfers.

Pain in the wrists? Type in comfort with one of these great ergonomic keyboards

Long typing sessions can leave anyone's wrists aching, but if you have one of the best ergonomic keyboards, that doesn't have to be the case. Our list of favorites will support good typing posture while being comfortable to use.

Dive head first into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.

Google tells lawmakers it allows other apps access to your Gmail

Google admitted to lawmakers in a letter that its privacy policy allows third-party apps access to the email messages of its 1.4 billion Gmail users. Google says the apps need the consent of users before access is granted.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.

Tired of paying for shipping? Here's how to set up an Amazon Prime account

Want to know how to sign up for Amazon Prime? It's easier than you might think and even comes with a free trial so that you can enjoy all of its benefits for 30 days risk-free. Just follow these steps.
Social Media

Twitter squashes security bug leaking direct messages since 2017

The team at Twitter has discovered and corrected a security bug within one of their developer APIs that has been leaking sensitive information sent via direct messages to business accounts.