First things first: the black market is not a Bitcoin problem. It\u2019s a trade problem. Bitfury\u2019s tools will undo anonymity mechanisms While it\u2019s easy to trace the transactions related to any Bitcoin address, users can \u201cshuffle\u201d their transactions with other users through services like CoinShuffle or CashShuffle, and effectively jumble the hashes so it would be impossible to trace the transactions to the right addresses. Or so, that was how it worked. In 2016, Bitfury released \u201cShared Send Untangling in Bitcoins\u201d which would supposedly enable one to track down the owners of transactions even when they have been shuffled. The other day, Bitfury announced the release of yet another tracking tool\u2014its \u201ccrime-fighting\u201d software, Crystal, which they have been working on for two years with the help of government officials. \u201cThe core of the toolkit is a detailed risk scoring solution that helps law enforcement agents and investigators trace suspicious transactions to a final address, or a point of withdrawal,\u201d CoinDesk reports. Crystal would detect and alert institutions of suspicious addresses and malicious transactions as the funds circulate. Additionally, they have released another method last month, titled Automatic Bitcoin Address Clustering that would \u201ccluster\u201d different Bitcoin addresses together if it is determined that they belong to the same user. This means that both shuffling and using multiple addresses to conceal your identity can now be undone. In other words, these privacy, security, and anonymity methods cryptocurrency holders use are no longer effective. Shuffled transactions can be unshuffled; the owner of multiple addresses can be pinpointed, enabling law enforcers to trace which transactions belong to addresses cybercriminals own and possibly nab them at a \u201cpoint of withdrawal.\u201d Possible casualties These tools and their official purposes sound great, if the tools are strictly used for those purposes alone. \u201cIf.\u201d One of the main reasons why some choose to shuffle their transactions and use multiple addresses is to protect themselves from cybercriminals in the first place. Should these tools be reproduced\u2014which they most likely will be, they can actually be used to commit even more crime against ordinary users. In fact, Tor (The Onion Router)\u2014the network used to access the dark web itself, was originally created by the US government. Now it houses the black market the government has been desperately trying to snuff out. Crystal, which will be available for commerce, can be used to trace \u201csuspicious transactions,\u201d and will allow you to do so anonymously. \u201cCrystal goes beyond Blockchain and collects information about Bitcoin addresses and entities from other sources, such as web forums and other websites where Blockchain users congregate. Thanks to this comprehensive approach, Crystal can reveal not just an entity\u2019s address, but also its actual real-world name,\u201d the paper reads. Don\u2019t get me wrong: preventing illegal trade is of course, a noble cause. But it\u2019s hard not to imagine how this can be used for malicious purposes. Breaking down privacy and anonymity in Bitcoin doesn\u2019t seem like the right solution. In fact, it might not even be the right problem. For catching criminals, and maybe hauling out whales The dark web\u2014the black market that operates within it, is not a \u201cBitcoin problem.\u201d It\u2019s a trade problem probably as old as trade itself, or at least as old as the time it was decided that they be outlawed. But for as long as there is a way to exchange one thing for another, this industry will persevere. Any currency whether digital or fiat can be used for criminal activity\u2014in fact, it\u2019s highly likely that majority (or all) fiat money in circulation has been involved in something \u201cbad\u201d at one point or another. Any medium of exchange or store of value, whether it\u2019s diamond, gold, even onions if they ever become rare enough, will continue to be used for illicit activity. From the perspective of preventing illegal activities such as drug and human trafficking\u2014sure, tracing \u201cdirty money\u201d has its benefits. But then it seems futile unless you can actually get one of these criminals to cash out through a KYC\/AML-compliant exchange which means their identity can be found out, or some other method where a criminal gives his or her identity up somehow. But this is a rookie mistake. The reason why the black market has thrived on the dark web is precisely because the dark web requires a certain level of nerd intelligence. Sure, they may slip up at some point but the chances are bleak. They\u2019re likely to steer clear of mainstream exchanges, or cryptocurrencies as a whole\u2014so there\u2019s that upside. But then they\u2019ll just go back to the black market where they can sell their tainted bitcoins to fellow dark web users, or they can just go back to other payment methods\u2014so that brings us back to the same problem. It\u2019s an endless goose chase. Unless this is a precursor to something else: will people and exchanges eventually be legally obliged to refuse \u201cunclean\u201d bitcoins? Normal, law-abiding citizens will probably comply. But cybercriminals, because they are cybercriminals, normally transact with fellow cybercriminals in the dark web. Refusing payment because they\u2019re tainted, \u201cunclean\u201d coins will merely result in a bonding moment, much like the one below. Given that this might have very little effect on the illegal trade, it makes you wonder whether the whole project was less about catching cybercriminals than it was about tracking down whales. After all, the cryptocurrency industry has been making instant millionaires as of late, and the taxman is lagging behind. If this is true, there\u2019s \u201ctechnically nothing wrong\u201d with this, of course. Although being upfront about it would have been a little more dignified. But of course, we wouldn\u2019t want to pile on the news especially at a time when cryptocurrencies are already on a downward trend.