Have you ever wanted to put cash into a machine and get Bitcoin sent to your mobile wallet in seconds? Add Portland, Oregon, to your list of cities where this is possible. The Bitcoin Meetup Portland meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month.
I recently attended the Bitcoin Meetup at Lucky Lab Brewing Company in order to check out the Skyhook ATM and meet some of the local Bitcoin enthusiasts.
The venue was perfect, very large inside and outside, plenty of chairs and tables, and power outlets for all the crypto geeks to plug their gear into. The beer? Pretty darn good actually, I went with the SuperDog IPA.
This was my first Bitcoin Meetup, even though I’ve been involved in Bitcoin for over a year. It was really interesting to talk with people of all different levels of expertise about Bitcoin. Everyone was there for different reasons and everyone had their own vision of Bitcoin or wanted to learn more. We talked about things like taxes, regulation, the Dark Wallet project, altcoins, mining, and more.
There were so many people and so many conversations going on that I chose to introduce myself to a few guys and start somewhere. I asked them what their involvement with Bitcoin was and how long they had been Bitcoin enthusiasts. One guy had bought a few Bitcoin at $100, another didn’t have any Bitcoin and was just there to learn, and another guy had been mining Bitcoin and Litecoin for a while.
One guy posed an interesting question: What if I want to pay taxes on my Bitcoins (capital gains, or other profit), how would I do it? He was concerned about getting in trouble with authorities and was genuinely interested in operating within the laws. Another question ensued: Why would you want to pay taxes on Bitcoin? That defeats the purpose.
This interaction highlighted the contrasting views on Bitcoin within the community itself. The two gentlemen both agreed they were Libertarians to some extent, but had opposing views on how they should practice such ideologies while remaining legally compliant. The conversation basically took two directions - voluntarily comply with regulations or don’t. For some they discussed ways to avoid government involvement completely. One could simply try to avoid/evade taxes by “washing” their coins using a Dark Wallet (CoinJoin technology) or doing an even simpler method of exchanging paper wallets in an anonymous fashion. Others were genuinely interested in complying with the law and wanted to know the best way to report Bitcoin gains for tax purposes. I posited that this would not be a problem with services being developed by LibraTax and Intuit.
The Skyhook Bitcoin ATM:
Jon Hannis is co-founder of Project Skyhook and the designer of the Bitcoin ATM. He plugged it into a power outlet, connected it to the WiFi network, and it was running in minutes. A line quickly formed to test it out. Some had 10, 20, 50, and even 100 dollar bills to test the machine with.
The Skyhook ATM is easy to set up, and comes with a step-by-step guide to get you started. You need power, a wired or Wi-Fi connection, and some Bitcoins to sell. An integrated tablet provides the touch-screen interface that makes it painless for customers to buy Bitcoins; using a QR code on their mobile device or paper wallet to receive them.
The steel-framed Skyhook ATM can be locked and bolted down easily. It has a password-on-boot option so that even if it’s stolen, your Bitcoins are safe. At the same time it is light enough move around to where your customers are.
One feature that some see as a disadvantage but I would argue makes this ATM more secure in case of theft is by integrating it with Blockchain.info for it’s wallet service. Therefore, this device does not store the Bitcoins in cold storage by default and there is no private keys on the machine.
The case of the wallet address photo:
I was so excited to take some pictures of the ATM in action that I took a picture of the screen without asking one guy before doing so. Therefore I snapped a picture of his public wallet address without even thinking it would be a problem. I’m so used to giving my wallet addresses out and posting them on forums that I didn’t really consider it a violation of privacy. However, he disagreed. He was rather upset that I didn’t consult with him first, so I promptly deleted the photo and apologized.
This interaction brought up a very interesting question in my mind that I thought about for the next couple days. How can Bitcoin be successful if people don’t want to use it publicly? Because for example, if I go into a store and pay with Bitcoin and I am on a security camera, it would be relatively easy for authorities to trace that Bitcoin address to a person. Furthermore, any receiver or sender will be able to trace that address. Bitcoin’s anonymity is
limited when used in public locations. For example, Jon knows that wallet address because he sent BTC to it. Given a time-stamp and some surveillance footage from Lucky Labs, it wouldn’t be that difficult for authorities to track down someone that was using Bitcoin for illicit activities. Obviously, we were doing everything in a public location and using very small amounts of money, but these types of problems are why Skyhook requires every buyer to sign a Due Diligence form that they have consulted their legal experts regarding compliance with AML/KYC regulations.
My personal theory is that authorities aren’t really interested in small transactions — just like they are not concerned with small cash transactions either — but rather are following large wallet addresses that send money across international borders.
I am very interested to see how things pan out from a legal and logistical perspective as Bitcoin’s popularity grows.
Have you participated in your local Bitcoin Meetup? We would love to hear your experiences as well as any questions or comments you have.