Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Are Cryptocurrencies Criminals Best Friends? Examining the Co-Evolution of Bitcoin and Darknet Markets

Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2017
Abstract: While public and private entities question the utility of privacy preserving means of electronic payments for individuals other than criminals, discussions are primarily based on anecdotal evidence. Thus, we address the overall research question of whether pseudonymous cryptocurrencies are primarily used by criminals. Based on Rational Choice Theory and darknet market design, we build a dynamic research model. Utilizing panel data of 296,875 unique product and service listings that were available on 19 darknet markets from June 2014 to July 2015 as well as Bitcoin blockchain transactions, we provide evidence for the co-evolution of Bitcoin and darknet markets. We find that transactions within the Bitcoin blockchain and the usage of transaction obfuscation services can be related to previous sales on darknet markets. The temporal lag can be attributed to escrow mechanisms. We contribute to the research stream of cryptocurrency usage behavior and discussions of regulators, governments and financial services firms.