Anonymous Transactions and Potential for Abuse

As I wrote recently, I’m very interested in decentralized marketplaces and looking into how they may changed ecommerce. At this point, OpenBazaar is leading the way in looking to change ecommerce. One of the features is anonymous transactions, which can also a potential problem, depending on who you ask.

About a year ago, Wired published an article about how OpenBazaar planned to go anonymous with the release of OB2.0 in May 2017. At time, Andy Greenberg wrote:

The result, OpenBazaar’s founder Brian Hoffman hopes, will be a renewed interest from those seeking private, uncensorable online trade. But Hoffman admits the move could also cement the last building block necessary to make his creation a haven for black-market commerce.

Greenberg went on to speculate about the potential for abuse via on decentralized marketplaces anonymous transactions for illegal usage.

It might even turn the OpenBazaar network into a decentralized, harder-to-control upgrade to dark web markets like the Silk Road, which have served as online trading posts for contraband like drugs, guns and stolen data.

OpenBazaar CEO Brian Hoffman acknowledged that possibility at the time, saying:

“There’s no way to prevent any type of activity on the network,” says Hoffman. “You’re putting the power back into the hands of the people rather than the central controllers of the market to decide what’s right and wrong.” “Hands-down, privacy and anonymity have been our number one most-requested feature from day one,” says Hoffman.

Ultimately, the release was delayed from May 2017 until September 2017. Regardless, the result is anonymous. There’s no telling exactly how often it’s being used for illegal activities at this point, though there don’t appear to be many obvious listings for illegal items.

Even with online anonymity, there are the problems of physical world risks that come with physically sending/receiving illegal goods. There were likely many similar concerns voiced when eBay was launched, and Craigslist has long faced questions.

 

Andrew @ EcomLoop
EcomLoop founder. I've worked in ecommerce since 2005, beginning with my own ebay store. I've run multiple independent ecommerce businesses on Magento, Joomla, and more recently, Shopify and WooCommerce. I believe marketplaces should be looked at as a sales channel and that all independent businesses should strive to build a direct connection with their audience for long-term success.

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