Coinbase Is Reportedly Selling Geolocation Data to ICE

Watchdog group Tech Inquiry reported the new details about the three-year contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

AccessTimeIconJun 29, 2022 at 11:58 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:50 p.m. UTC

Crypto exchange Coinbase's (COIN) analytics program, Coinbase Tracer, will provide the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) with data about crypto users, including “historical geo tracking data” and transaction history, according to a contract obtained by watchdog group Tech Inquiry.

The contract adds detail to what was previously known about the three-year deal between the crypto exchange and ICE, the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Intercept initially reported the news.

A representative for Coinbase denied that the information provided by the analytics software is the exchange’s customer data.

“All Coinbase Tracer features use data that is fully sourced from online, publicly available data, and do not include any personally identifiable information for anyone, or any proprietary Coinbase user data,” the spokesperson told CoinDesk.

The deal, which was signed in September for a maximum $1.37 million, is one of several small contracts between Coinbase and U.S. government agencies. In August 2021, Coinbase signed a smaller contract with ICE worth $29,000 to provide the agency with licenses for its analytics software. In April 2021 and May 2020, Coinbase sold licenses – both initially under $50,000 – from Coinbase Tracer to the U.S. Secret Service.

Coinbase Tracer, formerly known as Coinbase Analytics, has faced controversy before. The branch of the exchange responsible for the software’s development emerged from Coinbase’s 2019 acquisition of blockchain intelligence firm Neutrino, whose executive team previously worked with a startup that sold spyware to several governments, including Saudi Arabia, known for human rights abuses.


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Cheyenne Ligon

Cheyenne Ligon is a CoinDesk news reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She has no significant crypto holdings.