May the (Financial Action Task) force be with you

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m not actually all that clear on how Bitcoin works.  I get the idea of a virtual currency, and I sort of understand how most currencies have the backing of a central bank and this one doesn’t, but when I come to explain to someone else how it works, I have to look it up all over again.  I do know that pro-Bitcoinees say that we are exaggerating the money laundering risks, and that the antis say that it is the work of the devil in disguise as a clever programmer.  And the latter argument may have received a significant boost from the recent announcement by two young chaps called Cody Wilson and Amir Taaki that they have created something called Dark Wallet.  You can see their nascent website here.  Don’t worry about clicking to have a look – there’s nothing much there, and I did it without any ill $”*(SDF}_UI∅UJX∝DSIm ♠ (only kidding – I’m still here).

For the technically alert among you, Dark Wallet is a light browser wallet relying on an independent Bitcoin implementation with out-of-the-box security and privacy features.  For the rest of us, it’s a Bitcoin application designed to protect its users’ identities far more strongly than Bitcoin currently does.  Mr Wilson (who wears dark glasses most of the time) says this of his creation: “This is a way of using Bitcoin that mocks every attempt to sprinkle it with regulation.  It’s a way to say to the government, ‘You’ve set yourself up to regulate Bitcoin.  Regulate this.'”  Well he sounds lovely – just what you would expect of the man who created the world’s first entirely 3D-printed gun.  So if he can create his own weapons and move his money without trace…  And is seemingly unrepentant (can you be unrepentant ahead of time?) about what he might have unleashed: “I want a private means for black market transactions, whether they’re for non-prescribed medical inhalers, MDMA for drug enthusiasts, or weapons.  Yes, bad things are going to happen on these marketplaces.  Liberty is a dangerous thing.”  And he’s right: I’ve never managed to get out of their gorgeous London shop without spending at least £50 on fripperies I didn’t know I wanted until I saw them.

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