One of the many things that people like about cryptocurrency is that it can be quite anonymous and private. This is, of course, also one of the things that many large corporations and governments don’t like about it, and it seems like privacy may be at risk. In 2014, Amazon filed for a patent, which was just recently approved, for a ‘Streaming Data Marketplace.’
Patent applications and descriptions are often somewhat vague, technical, and hard to understand. This one talks about how Amazon wants to be able to gather streams of data from multiple sources, combine them together using their advanced systems, and then be able to sell that data in a marketplace.
So, what’s the big concern? Check out this excerpts from one of the clauses in the patent application:
“One example is a data stream that publishes or includes global bitcoin transactions (or any crypto currency transaction). These transactions are completely visible to each participant in the network. The raw transaction data may have little meaning to a customer unless the customer has a way to correlate various elements of the stream with other useful data. For example, a group of electronic or internet retailers who accept bitcoin transactions may have a shipping address that may correlate with the bitcoin address. The electronic retailers may combine the shipping address with the bitcoin transaction data to create correlated data and republish the combined data as a combined data stream. A group of telecommunications providers may subscribe downstream to the combined data stream and be able to correlate the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of the transactions to countries of origin. Government agencies may be able to subscribe downstream and correlate tax transaction data to help identify transaction participants.”
Go ahead, read it again. Yes, it Amazon is actually saying they want to grab the data and combine it in order to make transactions that are supposed to be anonymous and private much more public (if someone is willing to pay for it).
Different cryptocurrencies will have this type of ‘snooping’ be easier or harder for companies using this technology, but at least at first glance, it seems like there is serious potential for problems here. Don’t worry though, it is just huge corporations and government agencies who will have access to this data. I’m sure they can be trusted with it, right….