A US government request to trawl through the personal data of millions of users of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase signals the start of an effort to pull digital currencies like bitcoin into the mainstream, experts have said.
The “John Doe” summons, a broad order for data on all Coinbase users in 2013, 2014 and 2015, was filed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in a federal court in California on 17 November.
In the summons, the IRS said that all of Coinbase’s users in that period “have not been or may not be complying with US internal revenue laws”.
Coinbase has said it will fight the request in court.
Cryptocurrencies – digital assets which exist entirely online but are exchangeable for goods or services – have grown in popularity in recent years, in part because they grant a degree of user anonymity. Coinbase is the largest bitcoin exchange and its best-known brand.
But user confidentiality has also caused headaches for governments, who worry the currencies are being used for drug dealing, money laundering or tax evasion. Digital currencies are currently taxed as an asset like gold, with capital gains tax due when there is an appreciation in