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Friday, February 3, 2023

Coinbase Denies Selling Customer Data to US Federal Agencies

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Coinbase has denied a report that the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is using its proprietary “historical geo tracking data” to track and identify people based on their crypto transaction history.

The report, published on Thursday by The Intercept, referred to a copy of the August 3, 2021 contract between ICE and Coinbase. Although the contract was initially reported on in September last year, new details were made available through a redacted copy of the contract obtained by Jack Poulson, director of the watchdog organization Tech Inquiry, through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

On page 19 of the contract, a price list and proposal from Coinbase says that its Analytics web browser tool allows users to track data related to Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Tether and other cryptocurrencies, including all ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum network. 

The proposal also says that its software can perform “transaction demixing,” “shielded transaction analysis,” and, controversially, “historical geo tracking data.” 

That’s the detail that prompted the company to respond on Twitter.

“Coinbase does not sell proprietary customer data,” the company wrote in a short thread on Twitter yesterday. 

The company went on to say that its suite of analytics software, is meant to be used for compliance, anti-money laundering, and identifying terrorist financing.

“Coinbase Tracer sources its information from public sources, and does not make use of Coinbase user data. Ever,” the company said in a tweet.

In September, when the contract was first reported on, ICE was one of several government agencies to have sought licenses for Coinbase analytics software, according to USA Spending.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service have all expressed interest in using its analytics tools.

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