by Joseph Young
In an interesting turn of events, Blockchain.info investor and adviser Roger Ver stated in an online Bitcoin community earlier this week that the bitcoin wallet platform’s pro-privacy feature, called Shared Send, was not removed due to government threats, contradicting his earlier statement in August.
Three weeks ago, Ver announced that the discontinuation of Shared Send at Blockchain.info wallet was “due to threats of violence made by strangers in government.” Many users of Blockchain.info expressed their disappointment in regards to the removal of Shared Send, as it was one of the very few privacy-focused features of the Blockchain.info wallet that enabled users to break the chain of transactions for improved privacy measures.
However, earlier this week, Ver published another statement which explicitly opposed his previous explanation for the removal of Shared Send. A part of Ver’s most recent statement read,
“Other than general legal uncertainty about Bitcoin and crypto coins in general, I’m not aware of any government agents targeting shared send or Blockchain.info directly with threats of violence other than the usual things like ‘You must get permission from us in the form of a business license to do much of anything’.”
Merely 22 days ago, Ver clarified that government officials and central authorities made various threats of violence towards Blockchain.info to force the removal of Shared Send. After just over two weeks from the release of the statement, Ver offered a completely conflicting explanation, claiming that Blockchain.info hasn’t received any threats of violence apart from the requirements of business and operational licenses.
The obvious contradiction in Ver’s statements led to a series of controversial responses from the Bitcoin community. Some Bitcoin and blockchain.info users presented the Labavit-FBI dispute to emphasize that Ver’s initial statement maybe hold some truth, but due to strict regulations and the intensity of possible government threats, Ver had to make a follow-up statement to neutralize it.
Labavit for instance, a discontinued encrypted webmail service, was forced to deal with an unjustifiable trial due to the FBI’s abrupt arrest of the company’s owner and CEO Ladar Levison.
Levison was forced by the FBI to appear in federal court without legal representation and was denied a hearing for the seizure of Lavabit’s private user information.
“Afterwards, Levison wrote that after being contacted by the FBI, he was subpoenaed to appear in federal court, and was forced to appear without legal representation because it was served on such short notice; in addition, as a third party, he had no right to representation and was not allowed to ask anyone who was not an attorney to help find him one. He also wrote that in addition to being denied a hearing about the warrant to obtain Lavabit’s user information, he was held in contempt of court,” read a public statement released in 2014.
Considering the power and authority law enforcement and government agencies have over businesses and other entities, Blockchain.info users state that it is too early to disregard Ver’s initial statement.
Yet, the contradiction in Ver’s explanation for the removal of Shared Send led to harsh criticisms from both the community and a few experts, most notably Greg Maxwell.
Maxwell criticized Ver for being dishonest and pointed out that the removal of Shared Send represents Ver’s stance on privacy-focused features and technologies.
“I think this further emphasizes his acceptance, even desire, for Bitcoin to become yet another centralized payment rail… when his excuse for removing pro-privacy features (even if not very good ones…) is to claim that they were removed because government action of any form merely exist,” Maxwell wrote.
In contempt of all criticisms, Ver’s history with the federal government and his passionate perspective of freedom makes it highly unlikely that he nor the blockchain.info platform removed Shared Send at their will. While the reasons behind the Shared Send removal is still not clear, Ver’s statements and the response from community suggests the government may be involved.