The ABC and Bitcoin

An eyebrow-raising story just published on ZDNet Australia made me realise I'd never commented on Bitcoin here before!

The story

Written by Luke Hopewell less than an hour ago:

The ABC has caught one of its own trying to mine Bitcoins using its infrastructure.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) looked set to become a haven for Bitcoin virtual currency mining last year, after a so-called “miner” placed a piece of code in the production environment, which could have potentially netted to thousands of dollars. The ABC’s security systems, however, had other plans.

I thought Bitcoin was an interesting concept when it first came out, but I had reservations. I wasn't alone; while it clearly appealed to certain Libertarian minded people eager to escape the clutches of taxation and runaway government defecits that could devalue "real" money, there were those who claimed it would fail for the same reason every other online currency has. Such a discussion is beyond the scope of this post!

I like to say I’m a reformed Libertarian!

No, for me the concern was about energy. To introduce scarcity into a system of abundance, Bitcoins are manufactured through a computationally intensive and complex program. Referred to as "mining", people would be awarded at random for their efforts. Well no, people with more powerful and more expensive setups are statistically more likely to be awarded stuff, and those who can't afford them wouldn't. Libertarianism in a nutshell ;).

The problem for me is, while the Bitcoins mined with this program are virtual, their impact is real. Thousands of CPU hours burning real energy most likely produced from dirty fossil fuels created this stuff. If you're going to run a program on your computer 24/7, the least you could do would be to have it do something useful, like finding cures for diseases. If that doesn't rock your boat, spare the planet your extra energy use and put your machine on standby when not using it!

Which brings us back full circle to this article in ZDNet. This worker at the ABC, a government owned company and therefore owned by Australians like me, were using our computers and money to power them to generate Bitcoins for themselves. To me, that goes beyond what we'd normally describe as misuse of property.

I'll be interested to read the outcome of this investigation as more details emerge.


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