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Satoshi Nakamoto and doxing

What is doxing?

Doxing (sometimes spelled doxxing) is ‘the practice of investigating and revealing a target subject’s personally identifiable information, such as home address, workplace information and credit card numbers, without consent.’

The word derives from ‘docs’ (documents), and achieved popularity in the 1990s/early 2000s hacking culture, when hackers would take revenge on rivals by breaching their anonymity by posting revealing documents online that could lead to personal harassment or even raids by the police, a tactic resorted to extensively by hacker group Anonymous in the late 2000s.

The word therefore usually has very negative connotations, and it is largely in this vein that it has been employed recently when refereeing to the (alleged) public uncovering of Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity. Journalists however take a somewhat different view of doxing, and see the making previously unknown information public as a good thing…

Satoshi Nakamoto

Satoshi Nakamoto is the name under which Bitcoin’s creator in 2008 published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com, describing the Bitcoin digital currency. ‘Nakamoto’ was assumed to be a pseudonym, and the real creator (or possibly creators) of Bitcoin took great pains to hide his/her/thier identity.

In March however, Newsweek published an article by Leah McGrath Goodman, claiming that she had tracked down the real man behind Satoshi Nakamoto, ‘a 64-year-old Japanese-American man whose name really is Satoshi Nakamoto.’

It was only while scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized U.S. citizens that a Satoshi Nakamoto turned up whose profile and background offered a potential match. But it was not until after ordering his records from the National Archives and conducting many more interviews that a cohesive picture began to take shape.

Two weeks before our meeting in Temple City, I struck up an email correspondence with Satoshi Nakamoto, mostly discussing his interest in upgrading and modifying model steam trains with computer-aided design technologies. I obtained Nakamoto’s email through a company he buys model trains from.

Apparently not even his family know that he was the father of Bitcoin.

Many commentators on the internet (and in particular on Reddit) are not happy about this outing of a man who so clearly wanted to remain anonymous, posting comments such as,

Can anyone here locate the address of one Leah McGrath Goodman – perhaps we should post her address, license plate and picture of her home, so people can come and comment on the article?

To which another replied,

If you can please post it here; She probably can’t wait for people to knock on her door.. I mean obviously – she doesn’t care about privacy.

Some commentators have also expressed concern over the fact that Bitcoin’s founder has a reported wealth of $400 million worth in Bitcoins, which means that his ‘doxing’ could put Mr Nakamoto in personal danger.

This backlash against revealing Nakamoto’s identity led to Newsweek issuing a statement defending the article,

It is natural and expected for a major news revelation such as this to spark debate and controversy. Many of the greatest journalistic scoops have prompted similar reaction. Such debate is part of the democratic process and essential to the functioning of a free press.  Newsweek is committed to furthering that spirit of open discourse. At the same time, Newsweek encourages fellow members of the press and the public at large to focus on analysis of the facts at hand rather than rush to assumptions or resort to emotion.

But is Satoshi Nakamoto the Satoshi Nakamoto?

In a further twist to this story, the man identified by Ms. Goodman as Satoshi Nakamoto has categorically denied that he is the founder of Bitcoin,

My name is Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. I am the subject of the Newsweekstory on Bitcoin. I am writing this statement to clear my name.

I did not create, invent or otherwise work on Bitcoin. I unconditionally deny the Newsweek report.

The first time I heard the term “bitcoin” was from my son in mid-February 2014. After being contacted by a reporter, my son called me and used the word,which I had never before heard. Shortly thereafter, the reporter confronted me at my home. I called the police. I never consented to speak with the reporter. In an ensuing discussion with a reporter from the Associated Press, I called the technology “bitcom.”

I was still unfamiliar with the term. My background is in engineering. I also have the ability to program. My most recent job was as an electrical engineer troubleshooting air traffic control equipment for the FAA. I have no knowledge of nor have I ever worked on cryptography, peer to peer systems, or alternative currencies.

I have not been able to find steady work as an engineer or programmer for ten years. I have worked as a laborer, polltaker, and substitute teacher. I discontinued my internet service in 2013 due to severe financial distress. I am trying to recover from prostate surgery in October 2012 and a stroke I suffered in October of 2013. My prospects for gainful employment has been harmed because of Newsweek’s article.

Newsweek’s false report has been the source of a great deal of confusion and stress for myself, my 93-year old mother, my siblings, and their families. I offer my sincerest thanks to those people in the United States and around the world who have offered me their support. I have retained legal counsel. This will be our last public statement on this matter. I ask that you now respect our privacy.

Despite such denials from the beginning by Mr Nakamoto, Newsweek has stated that it stands by Ms. Goodman’s story,

Ms. Goodman’s research was conducted under the same high editorial and ethical standards that have guided Newsweek for more than 80 years. Newsweek stands strongly behind Ms. Goodman and her article. Ms. Goodman’s reporting was motivated by a search for the truth surrounding a major business story, absent any other agenda. The facts as reported point toward Mr. Nakamoto’s role in the founding of Bitcoin.


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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