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There's a New Alliance to Crack Down on Bitcoin Crime

The Blockchain Alliance will act as an information resource for law enforcement.

Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox

Image: BTC Keychain/Flickr

It's no secret that the pseudo-anonymous currency Bitcoin is often used for crime. On Thursday, a group of law enforcement agencies, major Bitcoin exchanges, and academics launched a group called the "Blockchain Alliance" in an effort to help combat blockchain-related crime and provide more legitimacy for the technology.

"Law enforcement will pursue criminals no matter what technology they're using, and how law enforcement does this can affect an open technology," Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, a Bitcoin research and advocacy group and one of the founding companies behind the new organisation, writes in a blog post introducing the collaboration.

"As a result, it's in everyone's interest—law enforcement, industry, and those of us who want to keep the technology free and open—to make sure that law enforcement understands how the technology works, what can and can't be done with it, and what are the opportunities and limits it presents for their investigations."

"Just like the internet and other technological advances, blockchain technology is misused by criminals to facilitate a variety of crimes"

Along with Coin Center, Washington DC-based trade association Chamber of Digital Commerce is a founding institution of the Blockchain Alliance. The director of the organisation is Jason Weinstein, a former Deputy Assistant General in charge of cybercrime investigations at the Department of Justice.

"Just like the internet and other technological advances, blockchain technology is misused by criminals to facilitate a variety of crimes," Weinstein told Motherboard in an email. He would not go into detail about the type of crimes the Alliance would be concerned about.

The group is also supported by some of the largest names in the Bitcoin exchange business, including Blockchain, Circle, and Coinbase.

As for law enforcement, "Blockchain Alliance is engaged with the Department of Justice, including the FBI and the US Marshals Service, the US Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and we plan to engage with other US and foreign agencies as well," Brito's post continues.

Essentially, the group is going to act as an information resource, or "public-private forum," as the Coin Center press release describes it, for law enforcement. It will provide "technical assistance in response to challenges faced during investigations."

The idea is that providing information and assistance will not only help the cops do their job, but also make sure that authorities don't see Bitcoin as an intrinsically criminal thing.

"It's important to correct the misperception of bitcoin as the 'currency of criminals.' This misperception can have very real consequences—it can influence how law enforcement, regulators, and lawmakers approach Bitcoin and could undermine the growth of Bitcoin and the blockchain," Brito writes.