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15 Oct 2013
Recent press reports say that Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal goods, was shut down by the FBI, who seized the servers and about 26,000 bitcoins in multiple wallets. They also apparently have all of the site's records of transactions among about 4,000 sellers and 150,000 buyers. If you're one of these buyers or sellers, now what?
Although bitcoin wallets are anonymous, the blockchain of transactions is entirely public. Silk Road buyers sent bitcoins to SR, which later passed them along to the sellers, less a commission. It apparently used a "tumbler", to mix up all the bitcoins and make it impractical to associate a specific buyer with a specific seller. Nonetheless if you bought something from Silk Road, there is almost certainly a record of a transfer from your wallet to one of SR's, and if you sold something, a transfer from one of SR's to yours.
Although it is certainly possible that some buyers carefully set up a separate wallet for each transaction, bought bitcoins to put into it anonymously (which means not through MtGox or other well known exchanges which demand ID from their users), and then abandoned the wallet, I doubt that most buyers were so careful. So you have a wallet you used to buy stuff from SR, the FBI knows the name of your wallet, even though they don't know it's you.
If there are still bitcoins in that wallet, do you plan to spend them? Really?
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