Bitcoin, the headline-grabbing crypto currency, has courted genuine controversy, what with its fluctuating worth and mismanaged banking firms. It's also regularly been linked to black market trading, given the relative anonymity it affords its traders. But can one in 20 Bitcoin owners really be using it to get their drug fixes?
That's what new research from price comparison website PriceSpy.co.uk would have us believe. Surveying the site's users to find those familiar with the currency, it found that five percent of those with Bitcoin had apparently used it to buy illegal drugs.
It's a headline-grabbing stat that's already being picked up on by newspapers. The likes of the Silk Road, Utopia and the Tor browser have certainly made it easier to make illegal purchases under the radar of the law, but the stats still seem high to me. You're hardly going to start singing it from the rooftops after going through the effort to make the purchase on the down-low in the first place. The majority of respondents (29 per cent) claimed to own only between £50 and £100 worth of the currency too, which would suggest only small deals were being made, if at all. It's hardly Pacino-in-Scarface whacking out a Bitcoin wallet.
Bitcoin is struggling to be considered a viable alternative to local currencies at the moment, and this sort of focus on its shadowy side won't help it develop. It makes you wonder who exactly benefits from such research, and whether the currency will ever have a chance to evolve naturally when so many have a vested interest in its downfall.