The US Government Contacted a Bitcoin Developer for Consulting Work

By
Justin OConnell @justinofconnell
April 26, 2016

The US government is trying to recruit blockchain developers to consult on blockchain and bitcoin developments. This should come as no surprise considering the interest in blockchain technology demonstrated by the world’s largest banks via the R3 CEV project, and the largest technology firms via the Hyperledger Project. The biggest names in banking and technology – from Wells Fargo to IBM – have entered the blockchain space.

As Peter Todd, longtime Bitcoin developer, tweeted: “Lol, just got off a call re: a consulting gig for a US govt. project to do sentiment analysis on BTC blockchain for intelligence purposes…”

Of course, this is unsettling for Bitcoiners, who boisterously champion their distrust of government and centralized banking structures. There are very few individuals qualified to do the work Todd could do. As Todd points out, many of them say no “on moral grounds.”

Todd said the conversation was not a particularly long one. The government worker – who Todd had previously met – asked if Todd could get a security clearance.

“I told them I’m not even willing to sign NDA’s for that kind of work,” Todd wrote on Twitter. Todd told the government employee he was “happy” to work on finding privacy and security bugs, but only if he could publish and fix them. Todd, who has family and friends in military, intelligence and others, says he has a “high degree” of sympathy for such projects.

But it’d be a big ethical violation as a dev.

Todd believes the agency which contacted him is interested in large volumes of the cryptocurrency being moved unexpectedly.

Also read: Peter Todd Believes Forced Soft Forks Are Dangerous

Todd is a long-time Bitcoin developer and has been involved with Bitcoin-related startups like Coinkite and DarkWallet, and many others. He is among the most respected voices in the Bitcoin industry.

Todd has long been skeptical of government participation in the Bitcoin protocol. 

I think there’s a really high chance that we see a lot more government action against bitcoin, including the core protocol.

He continued:

I keep talking to regulators at conferences who believe bitcoin simply must change to bring it in line with other payment systems; unfortunately this means adding identity information to bitcoin transactions and making it possible to blacklist funds.

Todd created the notion of  treechains, which are designed to enable block chain scalability and the interoperability of sidechains.

Todd would not be the first Bitcoin core developer to consult with government agencies. Gavin Andresen discussed the technology with the Central Intelligence Agency as early as 2012. Many cite Andresen’s discussions with the CIA as a reason for Satoshi Nakamoto – the pseudonymous Bitcoin founder – having left the nascent digital currency.

I haven’t had email from satoshi in a couple months actually. The last email I sent him I actually told him I was going to talk at the CIA,” said on a Bitcoin podcast. “So it’s possible , that…. that may have um had something to with his deciding.”

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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