Bitcoin has had its share of bad press. Most of it being unfounded, worst-case scenario musings about whether or not the coin will be used for illicit activities. While the waves of these poorly researched and often sensationalized prostelizations seem to ebb and fall regularly, the newest contention is causing some irritation among the bitcoin literate.
“Bitcoin mixers are simply a device that is used to keep bitcoin anonymous and the data out of the hands of centralized authorities.” Say the creators behind Best Bitcoin Tumbler, a website dedicated to offering news and up-to-date information on the topic. “This is how bitcoin was originally built and designed- as a decentralized, anonymous currency. Theoretically, so people could control their finances the way they saw fit, and not be financially penalized by intermediary authorities. Creating fungibility that is seen in many, if not all, other currencies”
But like so many other ‘personal freedoms’, big data business and centralized authorities are abusing the public ledger system. Using analytical tools to trace specific coins and user wallets back to individuals, as well as collecting data on purchase patterns and stores of wealth. Stripping the coin of its inbuilt anonymity.
Is Using a Bitcoin Mixer a Crime?
For now, simply using a bitcoin mixer is not a crime. The long-standing service offers users a chance to sever the data ties between their coins and the blockchain. Despite these data ties being an integral part of what keeps bitcoin decentralized, many users believe that mixers or coin joins should be employed regularly along the blockchain to prevent the unethical use of analytics from the start.
Which would help to preserve the ethics that bitcoin was built on, while simultaneously protecting it from the need for any mediation. The data trails are foundationally based on how the blockchain records transactions. Each time a transaction occurs on the network, it is given a unique signifier. This is important so that no funds can be spent twice and it helps to prove that the transactions are valid.
This signifier is part of the complicated mathematical algorithm that mining computers must solve in order to add the transaction to the blockchain. Once added, that signifier stays in the blockchain and will be attributed to that wallet and coin. This continues on until that particular coin is parsed out through enough transactions to obfuscate its origin. Depending on how that particular bitcoin is traded, this can take years- if ever happening at all.
By using bitcoin mixers, those fragmental transactions purposefully occur hundreds of times, using whatever bitcoin is deposited into the mixer and trading them along with a pool of other coins. Some of which are newly mined, belong to the mixing service itself or are part of other deposits. Making these microtransactions near instantaneously, so users don’t have to wait for the chain of data to degrade naturally. Ideal for users who store large values, or don’t often trade the coins they have.
Who Uses Bitcoin Mixers
While many media outlets seem content to suggest that bitcoin mixers are only used by criminals- in order to obfuscate origin for money laundering purposes- this just isn’t so. Many legitimate bitcoin users have no desire to put their information in an easy grasp of the public eye. And who could blame them? Would you want your bank records widely available to the public?
When weighing bitcoin privacy against the inherent anonymity of fiat, it’s simple to see why users would vie for fungibility, and use bitcoin mixers to get it. Using US dollars for example: If I loan you $1, you can pay me back that $1, using an entirely different bill- with no consequences from not giving me back the original bill. One is exchangeable for the other. Furthermore, the likelihood that the serial numbers on those bills are origin traceable is pretty much nil.
So even if the bill you give me in return was used in a bank robbery 10 years ago- it won’t affect the value of the currency or tie me to that robbery just by using the bill. It’s also roughly impossible to trace any given bill in circulation back to my wallet, bank account, or identity. Bitcoin should be privy to the same principal. Currently, the only way to achieve this level of fungibility is by using a bitcoin mixer. So it’s easy to see why someone with no malintent would use a bitcoin mixer.
“This is really why bitcoin mixers are so popular.” The site says, “It’s just a way of ensuring privacy and fungibility that you would have access to with any other currency. You don’t have to be a criminal to want that.”