Remember bitcoin? Today the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a lengthy set of risks that the cryptocurrency poses to early adopters. The list is somewhat decent in its content, though I suspect the bitcoin faithful will find its tone to be overly negative.
That same contingent will likely also find it encouraging that the CFPB is paying bitcoin any mind at all. The CFPB has also started to collect complaints from consumers relating to bitcoin, and its alternative coin cousins — the government agency cites XRP and Dogecoin in its release.
What are the risks according to the bureau? The usual list: scammers looking to take advantage of a growing market segment; cost to use; limited consumer protections in place; and, of course, hackers.
The group’s release also warns about massive price fluctuations, a lack of pure anonymity with some cryptocurrencies, and the fact that if you lose your private keys, you are in a tough spot. That’s a decent list, all told.
What the CFPB doesn’t do a good job of — or really any job of at all — is explaining the potential advantages of bitcoin. But that’s not the job of the agency, really, and is left, presumably, to the market.
The advisory appears to have had an impact on the price of bitcoin. It’s always somewhat risky to ascribe price swings to single news events, but this chart is somewhat interesting (24-hour chart, using weighted data from several exchanges, via Bitcoin Average)
It isn’t difficult to understand why a U.S. government advisory might impact the price of bitcoin. Any indication that the government’s position toward bitcoin hasn’t changed implies the local demand for the cyptocurrency could be less than expected.
The decision by the IRS to treat bitcoin as property and not a currency entails tax work that makes it less attractive for daily use. That is a tension that must be solved before bitcoin can become a mass-market consumer product in the U.S.