Bitcoin magnate Roger Ver has launched a new site designed to help catch criminals by offering anonymous cryptocurrency bounties.
Bitcoin Bounty Hunter is built around a simple premise - the site lists bounties offered for information leading to the apprehension of individuals suspected of crimes.
"BitcoinBountyHunter.com represents the first step into a new era for law enforcement and the protection of individual rights," said Ver.
The site allows anyone in any part of the world to contribute funds that would go towards individual bounties to help law enforcement arrest perpetrators of various crimes. For the time being, though, the bounties are limited to bitcoin-related crimes, but the concept could be used to put a price leading to any criminal's arrest.
Three bounties were listed at press time and all three are related to bitcoin theft. There is a 37 BTC bounty for the hacker who tried to hack Ver and bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, while 2 BTC bounties are offered for the arrest of the Mt Gox and Bitcoinica hackers.
"I'm actually pretty optimistic that this may bring out some information that people don't already know. It will be interesting regardless."
Ver explained that bitcoin allows people to anonymously donate or collect bounties, and described the factors that make this approach unique:
"Most interestingly of all, now law enforcement officers can directly and anonymously collect bounties for actually doing their jobs."
The site allows anyone to contribute bitcoins to the community pool, post new bounties anonymously and, of course, claim a bounty.
He said the site is just the first step in a more ambitious plan to create a completely decentralised system that would not depend upon a single website.
Not for vigilantes
Bitcoin Bounty Hunter does not encourage vigilantism and the site has a number of policies designed to ensure that the letter of the law is followed.
Ver continued that the site is for people prepared to do the hard investigative work other bodies may not have the incentive to pursue. He said:
"I tried to make it clear that the bounties are only awarded in the case of traditional law enforcement making an arrest that leads to a conviction. My intent is not to inspire people to engage in their own vigilante justice."
The site accepts bounties for persons who committed crimes "in which there is a victim" and demands proof that a crime has indeed been committed. Evidence is submitted using a zero-knowledge proof of the evidence via proofofexistence.com.
Bounties are only paid out after the crime is reported to the proper authorities and the suspect is arrested and convicted. After the conviction, the site can be contacted with evidence that the criminal was arrested and convicted using information offered by the user.
The site's FAQ section states:
"Once there has been a conviction, contact us with with the evidence you submitted to proofofexistence.com. If we agree that you were the earliest person with the evidence leading to the arrest, we will pay you the bounty to the bitcoin address specified in the document."
The funds are held in secure bitcoin wallets with individual addresses for each bounty. The site hopes to soon implement a trustless solution in which no individual will have control of the funds.
Digital investigation image via Shutterstock