Sep 9, 2014 · 2 minutes

There's a bizarre disconnect between how some people who use Bitcoin wish to be treated and how they're willing to treat other people. Nowhere is this more evident than with the news that a hacker claiming to have forced access to the email address of Satoshi Nakamoto, the supposed founder of Bitcoin who has remained anonymous since the currency's creation, is asking for 25 bitcoins (more than $11,000 at the current exchange rate) to reveal Nakamoto's real identity.

Asking for the payment to be made in Bitcoin makes sense -- the currency was designed with privacy in mind, and it will be harder to trace than a ransom paid with dollars or euros. But the idea of someone requesting funds in a hard-to-trace digital currency while promising to reveal information about someone who clearly wishes to remain anonymous is a bitter testament to the hypocrisy shown by those who claim to value privacy -- until it benefits them to do otherwise.

Bitcoin is often seen as a currency for techno-libertarians who want to keep the government out of their markets. Some of these same people furiously decry the National Security Agency's surveillance programs while defending Google's right to spy on anyone it likes. Knowing that the NSA is snooping through the email accounts of millions of people is an outrage... but digging through someone's email address and promising to reveal their identity to the world is really just a solid business plan.

This isn't the first time some anonymous truther has taken it upon themselves to reveal what he believes to be personal information about Nakamoto. The same thing happened in March, when Newsweek published a story claiming to have found the "real" Satoshi Nakamoto. People began to share information about this person, who refuted Newsweek's claim, almost immediately:

Minutes after Newsweek’s story hit the web, Nakamoto’s exact address was published by amateur sleuths on Internet message boards. This information joins details of his medical issues and the names, ages, and cities of residence of his family now public thanks to Newsweek. The details have already made it into the “Satoshi Nakamoto” Wikipedia page.

But this kind of hypocrisy isn't limited to people who peddle in Bitcoin. It's also prominent among people who value their own anonymity on websites like Reddit but are happy to share private images stolen from celebrities, as the Verge explains in an editorial on the photo leak:

 Take some of the members of Reddit, for example. If you're not familiar with Reddit, this is the best way I know how to describe it: it's an "anything goes" online message board where the loudest voices belong to misogynistic trolls who value anonymity over decency. In reality, "anything goes" is a bit of hyperbole, since the site does have two major rules: no child porn, and no posting "personal information." And because Reddit is a special place, its ban on posting personal information will protect you unless you happen to be an attractive woman that lots of people want to see naked.

The message is clear, whether it's conveyed by people who want to preserve their own anonymity by using a cryptocurrency while auctioning off someone else's personal information, or by those who defend their right to privacy and then share images stolen from people whose own privacy has now been torn to shreds: my privacy is important, but your privacy is nothing.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]