Study: Computer Programmers And Criminals Are Top Bitcoin Users

August 5, 2015 16:01 UTC

If you use bitcoin and you’re not a computer programmer or a criminal, a recent study says you aren’t among the most common bitcoin users. Researchers from the University of Kentucky claim computer programmers and persons involved in illegal activity top the list of bitcoin users, reported, a London, U.K.-based technology news source. Several comments on took issue with these findings.

The authors set out to determine what types of people use bitcoin and their reasons for using it. They used Google Trends data to explore reasons for interest in bitcoin. They acknowledged the search data in and of itself did not provide a definitive method for defining bitcoin use. But by building on existing research and anecdotal evidence, they created profiles for likely bitcoin users.

Top Reasons For Bitcoin Use

Prior research indicated three reasons for bitcoin use: curiosity, profit making and politics. Based on these findings, the researchers created four user groups: tech enthusiasts, investors, anti-establishment types, and criminals.

The study analyzed bitcoin-related search terms over a 31-month period.
The authors acknowledged the sensitivity of some bitcoin activity could make it hard to analyze the data, but they concluded it was not likely Google data would be subjected to major social censoring. They also noted there has been a correlation between bitcoin-related Google searches and exchange prices. This suggested that interest on Google reflected people using bitcoin or following its progress.

The authors used all search terms listed under bitcoin as a currency. These include terms such as “bitcoins,” “bitcoin mining,” “bit coin,” “bitcoin exchange,” “bitcoin price” and “bitcoin value.” The researchers combined these terms with those related to computer science as a discipline. They examined results containing terms “Silk Road,” “free market,” and “make money” to determine the level of bitcoin interest related to criminal activity, a libertarian political position and speculative investing.

Also read: Luxembourg Researchers Find A Way To Unmask Bitcoin Users

No Correlation To Liberty From Central Banks

The authors found no correlation linking bitcoin to seeking liberty from central bankers or investors looking to make money from the currency. They determined that computer programmers and criminals interests most closely matched the Google Trends search data

“Although many commentators have speculated about motives for using Bitcoin, our study is the first to systematically analyse Bitcoin interest, including the interest of hard-to-observe clientele,” the authors said. “We find robust evidence that computer programming enthusiasts and illegal activity drive interest in Bitcoin and find limited or no support for political and investment motives.”

The findings drew several comments from readers who took issue with the study’s methodology.

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Lester Coleman is a media relations consultant for the payments and automated retailing industries.