Video: Cryptocurrency mining raises GPU prices, causes shortage
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has again criticized the tech world's enthusiasm for encryption for anonymous communications and transactions, warning that cryptocurrencies are contributing directly to deaths.
Gates was asked for his opinion on cryptocurrencies in a Reddit Ask Me Anything chat on Tuesday to promote the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's 10th annual letter.
"The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity. I don't think this is a good thing. The government's ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing," he wrote.
Gates also said cryptocurrencies had "caused deaths in a fairly direct way", since they enabled anonymous trading in drugs online.
"Right now cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs, so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and cryptocurrencies is super-risky for those who go long," he wrote.
The comments echo Gates' warning last week over tech companies' hubris in the encryption debate with government, suggesting Apple's hard-line stance on not offering law enforcement backdoors to unlock an iPhone might attract government intervention.
He told Axios that, "Tech companies have to be ... careful that they're not trying to think their view is more important than the government's view, or than the government being able to function in some key areas."
He said he was referring to the companies' "enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible, and their view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal's communication should never be available to the government".
When Axios said he seemed to be talking about unlocking an iPhone, Gates said, "There's no question of ability; it's the question of willingness."
A Reddit user responding to Gates' take on cryptocurrencies pointed out that cash is used to buy dangerous drugs too, but Gates stuck to his original point.
"Yes -- anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things but you have to be physically present to transfer it which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult," he wrote.
A number of Reddit users also asked Gates about blockchain but the Microsoft co-founder didn't respond to these questions.
However, Microsoft is developing a blockchain decentralized ID system that it will soon integrate with its Authenticator authentication app.
Previous and related coverage
Bill Gates again blames IBM for creating the Ctrl-Alt-Del command instead of having one button do the job.
Bill Gates says he's recently switched to an Android phone, but with lots of Microsoft software.