Amazon was granted a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, originally filed in 2014, which may conflict with the nature of Bitcoin’s decentralized status.
The patent primarily focuses on the sharing of data with retailers and telecom companies in order to connect transactions and purchases made with the online retail giant to Bitcoin transaction, customer shipping and IP addresses.
Amazon’s patent would allow them to identify participants in Bitcoin transactions and sell the information to law enforcement agencies among others.
It details methods with which Amazon uses its data stores to identify the participants in Bitcoin transactions to sell that information on to subscribers. Data may be stored across multiple availability zones in a region for a set time window. During that window, data is available to be read, re-read, backfilled, analyzed or moved to long-term storage.
This conflicts directly with cryptocurrencies’ guarantee of a high degree of anonymity for its users, a feature that many users find attractive, and partially the reason it has been used to fund criminal activity, a reason frequently cited by governments for its regulation.
Because IP addresses have proven not to convict those involved in illegal internet activity in the past, it appears that this not likely to be Amazon’s gain, although the company sees law enforcement agencies subscribing to transaction data feeds and paying a service fee in order to analyze customer data.
“For example, a law enforcement agency may be a customer and may desire to receive global Bitcoin transactions, correlated by country, with ISP data to determine the source of IP addresses and shipping addresses that correlate to Bitcoin addresses,” reads the patent description.
Cryptocurrency users and supporters are worried in the wake of the Facebook scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Questions regarding ethical business practices are increasingly being asked of large corporations who have private user data at their disposal.