The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a department of the U.S. Treasury Department, invited representatives from several government agencies to meet with the Bitcoin Foundation, a group seeking to improve Bitcoin’s standardization and security, earlier this week to learn about the digital currency.
The Monday meeting included the FBI, IRS, Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security. Jon Matonis, the executive director or the Bitcoin Foundation, said the event was packed to capacity, and even held more meeting on Tuesday for government officials that were unable to attend.
The focus wasn’t to discuss policy or law enforcement agenda, but was instead intended to educate on the technical side of Bitcoin. The Bitcoin Foundation explained how distribution works through platforms like blockchain, how Bitcoin wallets work, and why transactions are irreversible.
“You don’t know what the regulators out there are reading,” Matonis told IBTimes. “You don’t want things on the Internet to be their only source of information.”
Most importantly, according to Matonis, the sessions opened up a dialogue between regulators and advocates about the future of Bitcoin. The Bitcoin Foundation explained techniques for privacy and the reality of anonymous transactions. For example, the Bitcoin Foundation showed that because ever transaction is detailed on blockchain, a government official can easily track down a specific user even if they are kept anonymous.
Although Bitcoin is sometimes used to purchase illegal items and drugs anonymously from websites like Silk Road, these meetings weren’t focused on this aspect. Matonis said that regulation of Bitcoin is not the solution to this problem.
“It’s like a toaster,” Matonis said about Bitcoin. “It can only done one thing; it can make toast and it can do it very well. If you change the protocol in some way, it’s not a toaster anymore.”
Matonis said the meetings helped establish the Bitcoin Foundation as a credible place for information and education about Bitcoin. He hopes that in the future, these discussions will help government officials realize the legitimacy and value of Bitcoin for the economy rather than establish roadblocks that prevent Bitcoin businesses in the U.S.
The Bitcoin Federation is a registered entity in Washington, D.C. and has a physical presence in Seattle, Wash. The group is looking to found chapters in other nations around the world.
Originally from Northern California, Ryan W. Neal came to New York to earn his master's in journalism from Columbia University. He joined IB Times April 2013, and is a writer...