BCC boondagle: US Marshals reveals identities, contact info of Silk Road bitcoin bidders

By Michael Carney , written on June 18, 2014

From The News Desk

For fuck's sake. Email has been commonly available since the early 1990s and yet two decades later the use of CC (carbon copy) and BCC (blind carbon copy) still perplexes users the world over. To call this embarrassing would be too kind.

The latest high profile example of a BCC snafu comes via the US Marshals Service which this week accidentally revealed the names and email addresses of the high net worth individuals and institutions interested in bidding on the seized Silk Road bitcoins.

As we’ve reported in the past, the federal law enforcement agency has been upfront about its intentions to liquidate these seized assets since the very beginning. More recently, the agency revealed the details of its plan.

The 29,656.5 seized BTC, valued today at approximately $18 million, will be sold in nine separate lots (of roughly 3,300 BTC each). Interested bidders must submit applications for consideration by June 23 ahead of the June 27th auction (with results expected to be released on June 30). Those wishing to register must submit a signed pdf copy of the Bidder Registration Form, a copy of a government-issued photo ID for the individual bidder or bidder representative, and a $200,000 USD deposit sent by wire transfer originating from a US bank.

But now back to this email fiasco. The Marshal’s office, in an apparent attempt to update some already registered bidders by sending out a FAQ document, managed to CC rather than BCC dozens of email recipients, thereby revealing the identities and contact information of a number of high profile individuals.

According to Coindesk, who has seen these emails, participating bidders include (among others):

According to Coindesk, some prospective bidders who have submitted applications were not included on this email, suggesting either that some applications have not been accepted or the leaked emails were not sent to the entire bidder list.

The Marshals, apparently unaware of the rules of the Streisand Effect, sent a second email calling further attention to the original error.

One of the emails that we sent out this morning inadvertently showed a list of some of the individuals who have asked a question or questions about the pending bitcoin auction. We apologize for the error.
So while it’s news that the world now knows at least some of the reported interested bidders, it’s worth mentioning that anyone participating in the auction would similarly be giving up a bit of anonymity to the government as well. Law enforcement will presumably be able to track any purchased coins and their destination wallet account, a fact that has very real potential tax consequences and will limit the ability for these coins to be used for illicit purposes.

It’s also interesting, given the above, that the Marshals are effectively washing what would otherwise be considered dirty coins and rendering them “clean” in a way similar to controversial bitcoin “mixing” services.

Finally, this month’s auction may be just the beginning. The Marshals control an additional 140,000 coins seized from accused Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht, whereas the nearly 30,000 coins in question were held in the accounts of Silk Road itself and largely belong  to the Dark Web marketplace's customers. The larger lot of coins are not currently being auctioned as Ulbricht has sued the government to contest such a sale.

Much like watching reality TV in the hope of viewing the lives of people more messed up than ourselves, leave it to the US government to make us all feel better about that time we accidentally included our boss on that ranting inter-office email.

[Image via theshirtlist]