Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are built on blockchain technology, which allows for complete decentralization. These digital assets can function without any oversight or control from a central governing body. As such, cryptocurrencies are widely believed to be anonymous, untraceable, and tamper-resistant digital assets. But to what extent is this correct? Let’s find out:
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. It has experienced an astronomical rise and more and more people are using it as a means of payment and investment.
Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are built on blockchain technology, which allows for complete decentralization. These digital assets can function without any oversight or control from a central governing body. As such, cryptocurrencies are widely believed to be anonymous, untraceable, and tamper-resistant digital assets. But to what extent is this correct? Let’s find out.
Are Bitcoin transactions traceable?
Since Bitcoin uses blockchain technology, there is complete transparency and all transactions are recorded in a distributed ledger. These ledgers are public and anyone can access them. This makes Bitcoin transactions traceable.
Using tools known as Bitcoin explorers, users can monitor every activity on the blockchain. One can also trace the amount sent and the addresses involved in a transaction. However, you can only trace these transactions back to the user’s public key; they do not provide real-world identification or personal information.
Therefore, while blockchain explorers can assist in tracing transactions and obtaining wallet addresses, finding the identity associated with the address is not easy – this grants pseudo-anonymity to the user.
Are Bitcoin transactions anonymous?
The transactions on the blockchain can only be identified by an alphanumeric string known as a public key. This key makes bitcoin transactions pseudo-anonymous. This means that while others can look into your transactions and your holdings, they cannot figure out the real identity behind the public key.
However, this changes when you need to exchange your cryptocurrency for cash or other tokens or get a crypto debit card. You must register for such services with a centralized cryptocurrency exchange, decentralized application, or crypto bank. These platforms will most likely require a KYC process to take you on as a customer. By doing so, you create a link between real world data and a wallet’s public key, which can be used to expose details of the identity behind a wallet’s public key.
Can Bitcoin be withheld?
One of the main advantages of blockchain technology is that transaction data and personal crypto holdings cannot be tampered with. This is a characteristic known as censorship resistance or immutability.
Since blockchain technology is based on a decentralized system, no entity has control over anyone’s money or data.
Therefore, on-chain tokens cannot be frozen, withheld or altered in any way. Perhaps the only way to block a user from accessing their on-chain funds is to shut down nearby internet services.
However, all this protection goes out the window when you transfer your funds to a crypto exchange, lending platform, or DApp. A central authority is then called in and can freeze assets if necessary. It is common for a centralized trading platform to freeze a user’s wallet.
This often happens if the user is involved in criminal activities. Government agencies can contact the developers to freeze a particular address. The developers blacklist the address, preventing the user from sending or receiving cryptocurrency.
In some cases, the feature to blacklist an address can be abused by scammers. Usually scammers on decentralized exchanges can use this feature so that the purchased tokens cannot be sold. This will drive up the price of said token and attract investors to the project. Once the prices are high enough, the scammers dump their tokens on the open market and disappear with a fortune.
In conclusion, Bitcoin can provide a degree of anonymity. However, with new KYC guidelines, maintaining this anonymity and making untraceable transactions becomes more difficult. Cases of frozen wallets have also become common these days. However, the chances of someone tracing your account, discovering your identity in the real world, or freezing your account are extremely rare. It takes specialized tools and knowledge to perform these tasks and usually requires law enforcement agencies to track down criminals.