While this isn’t exactly Deep Throat, a longstanding tech-world mystery was the identity of the inventor of Bitcoin, the digital, nearly-anonymous cryptocurrency that has gone beyond a mere libertarian fascination to a novel way to buy drugs on the internet, to its current incarnation as a vehicle for financial ruin for users of the shuttered Mt. Gox. For years, the name of the anonymous inventor of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, was presumed to be a pseudonym. However, the American magazine Newsweek did something novel and wondered “What if that’s his real name?” After some public records searches, they narrowed their focus to a 64-year-old Japanese-American man named Satoshi Nakamoto living in suburban Los Angeles. When they went to his door, he met them and said “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.” This quote would seem to confirm that this Satoshi Nakamoto is the same that in 2008 published the paper “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” and designed and released the Bitcoin protocol and software, as well as the first bitcoins, in 2009. The following year, Nakamoto would largely hand over control of bitcoin source code and web domains associated with Bitcoin to prominent members within the community, and essentially disappear with 1 million bitcoins, which for a time in 2013 were worth $1 billion, but are now worth close to $400 million. The legal name of the man Newsweek contacted is Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto. His birth name was simply Satoshi Nakamoto, which he changed when he graduated college. Since the interview, he has denied any connection with Bitcoin, saying he misinterpreted the interviewers questions, thinking they pertained to classified work he had done for the US military. The revelation, which came last Thursday, has disrupted life a great deal for Nakamoto, who initially called the police when Newsweek reporter Leah McGrath Goodman showed up at his door. While the central conceit of the story is to run with some circumstantial similarities between this Satoshi Nakamoto and the one that invented Bitcoin, Dorian Nakamoto is described as an extremely solitary figure who likes to build model trains. Now he’s had his home staked out by reporters, and was even chased by the press to an Associated Press office the day after the Newsweek story ran. Since the episode started, there’s been immense international interest, but short of Dorian Nakamoto reversing course and admitting he’s the Bitcoin inventor, the story may stay a mystery. Those prominent in the Bitcoin community, Gavin Andresen, head of the Bitcoin Foundation and owner of the alert key bequethed to him by Satoshi Nakamoto, which allows him to issue warnings to all Bitcoin users, has said he has no interest in helping uncover the identity of Bitcoin’s inventor. Bitcoin Foundation released a statement last Friday saying their anonymous interactions with Nakamoto using email meant that no one involved in the project had ever met him in person. On Friday, the P2P Foundation account owned by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto commented on a 2009 article he had authored, saying simply “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.” It was Nakamoto’s first communication via that account in five years. But proclamations from a shadowy entity who prized anonymity over all are as hard to prove as the assertions of Newsweek. Goodman has stood by her story and insists that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto is the inventor of Bitcoin. Meanwhile in the Bitcoin kingdom, things are rough. Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. on Monday, infuriating those who were mustering federal civil suits against the exchange, alleging fraud. Not only does the filing preempt any civil proceedings, it also gives Mt. Gox ownership over its servers, which its critics say should be examined. The total value of the 850,000 missing bitcoins Mt. Gox said was hacked from its servers is currently valued at $454 million. While the Bitcoin Foundation, which advocates for the currency’s adoption, has tried to weather the storm of the Mt. Gox scandal, the FBI is still the world’s largest owner of bitcoins, 3.5 million of which it seized when it cracked down on Deep Web drug bazaar The Silk Road, a major PR black eye for Bitcoin. On Tuesday Bitcoin Foundation hired Jim Harper, the former information policy studies director of the right-libertarian leaning Cato Institute, who has previously advocated for an enlightened regulation of the currency, while financial regulators worldwide still acknowledge that they have acknowledged that doing such a thing may be difficult.
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