Blockchain Analytics Firm Chainalysis Outlines User Data Policy Amid Coinbase Allegations

New York-based blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis has published an official statement clarifying that it does not collect or sell users’ personal data when it provides its services to cryptocurrency exchanges. The statement was published in a company blog post on March 5.

Chainalysis is one of the highest-profile firms in the blockchain intelligence industry, providing technology — such as its proprietary KYT (Know Your Transaction) tool — that enables firms, governments and law enforcement agencies to monitor blockchain transactions and track suspected illicit activities, such as money laundering or terrorist financing.

As reported, allegations that such firms may be circulating their clients’ user data surfaced last week in the midst of community backlash over Coinbase’s controversial acquisition of blockchain analytics firm Neutrino. To justify the acquisition, a senior Coinbase executive had claimed in an interview that their previous intelligence tool providers were purportedly selling Coinbase users’ data to third parties.

While the executive did not explicitly identify these intelligence firms by name, Chainalysis has evidently responded by clarifying that it does not require or store — let alone circulate — any personal data in order to conduct transaction analyses:

“Exchanges that use Chainalysis KYT [...] submit their transaction data — not personally identifiable customer data — to Chainalysis to automate the process of transaction monitoring. [...] Any link from a transaction back to the person or people involved [...] must be made outside of Chainalysis because we do not collect any personally identifiable information from exchanges.”

The statement continues to outline that Chainalysis’ focus is on flagging transactions “based on indicators of risky behavior,” such as destination addresses known to be illicit entities (a darknet market or terrorist financing organization, for example). This contextualization, it continues, requires only the basic knowledge that a given wallet address belongs to a crypto exchange customer, not personally identifiable information.

As per the blog post, the firm’s blockchain analytics tools are thus aimed at monitoring service-level transaction data, not at labeling individual users’ wallets.

Chainalysis further states that based on its counterparty analyses and KYT screening “risk appetite and investigations are the exchange’s own responsibility.”

As reported yesterday, London-based blockchain analytics firm Elliptic — which provides technology to Coinbase — has refuted allegations that it collects and sells clients’ user data to third parties for financial gain. In an official statement, Elliptic’s CEO and co-founder James Smith stated that the firm has never “enabled the violation of individuals’ financial privacy,” and that such accusations represent a fundamental misunderstanding of Elliptic’s industry role.

Also yesterday, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong revealed that Neutrino staff with prior connections to the contentious software firm Hacking Team will transition out of their new roles at the exchange.