Most people who’ve heard of “Bitcoin” know it only as a virtual currency sometimes used by criminals. But there are entrepreneurs, engineers, venture capitalists, and bankers who are betting big on the untapped economic potential of the “blockchain” – the underlying technology that makes Bitcoin run. In a sense, Bitcoin is just the first “app” to use the blockchain technology. There will be many other apps in the years to come that could transform the way we do business, the way we move assets, and, through the Internet of Things, even the way we live. But for the blockchain’s potential to be realized, Bitcoin cannot be perceived as the “currency of criminals” – and that means law enforcement has to be able to go after those who would use Bitcoin and the blockchain to commit crimes.
One of my responsibilities at the Justice Department was overseeing the Criminal Division’s cybercrime and transnational organized crime programs. Based on that perspective, I recently did a backgrounder for Coin Center – “How Can Law Enforcement Leverage the Blockchain in Investigations?” – which discusses how, contrary to popular belief, Bitcoin and the blockchain technology actually provide significant advantages for law enforcement in conducting investigations of those who would seek to exploit this technology for criminal purposes.