Bitcoin,  Ethereum,  Innovators

‘ShapeShift’-ing crypto company says it will do one thing, does another

‘The exchange without accounts’ will soon require users to have accounts

ShapeShift has long said it would remain headed one very specific, privacy-minded direction. Now it’s going a different way.

ShapeShift is easily understood as a hyper-anonymous cryptocurrency exchange. If you want to trade bitcoin for ether, for example, the platform doesn’t even require that you create an account. Company messaging consistently reveals pride for this design — with zero personal information collected from its users, there’s zero chance for embarrassing data leaks and total user confidence that their privacy is protected. Now the news is that the company’s gonna start collecting user data “soon.”

It’s all in the name of letting these exchange users register membership accounts that will let them harness much more functionality. If ShapeShift users want to supply the company with their details, they’ll get access to important, basic crypto exchange features, like viewing transaction history or building an “address book” of important crypto wallets.

Membership is optional for now, but will ultimately become mandatory. If you want to use ShapeShift to buy and sell digital assets, you will eventually have to tell them who you are. The company’s blog post on the topic includes a somber paragraph as near-apology for this:

“We would prefer if the collection of personal information was not a mandatory element. We still firmly believe that individuals, regardless of their race, religion, or nationality, deserve the right to financial privacy, just as they deserve the right to privacy in their thoughts, in their relationships, and in their communications. Such privacy is a foundational element of a civil and just society, and should be defended by all good people. We remain committed to that cause and it is best served if we are smart about our approach.”

Look, some competitive crypto exchange functionality ought to require a little data collection. This isn’t exactly the company shunning its principles. It’s doing what it must do in order to build a viable business.

This turn of events will surely be a turnoff to the users who were attracted to ShapeShift specifically for its no-questions-asked paradigm. But building out a more fully-featured exchange will attract at least as many users as it sends away.

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Dylan Love is an editorial consultant, contributing reporter, and fiendishly curious technology enthusiast. He owns no cryptocurrencies.