When does a company actually control customer bitcoins?

A look at how cryptocurrency transactions work, what types of wallets are available, and when wallet providers actually have control of a user’s coins.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin give us the tools to create all sorts of new financial relationships. They make it possible for individuals to be their own bank, and make it easier for companies to provide bank-like services. With multi-sig and n-lock transactions (both explained herein), even more arrangements emerge: divided custody of funds, delayed custody, custody contingent on the revelation of a secret or the solution to a puzzle. With these complexities in mind, when does a company actually have control of their customer's bitcoins? When, alternatively, is a company merely providing a non-custodial service like software design, back-up key recovery, or escrow? To outline this question and help provide some answers, we've prepared the following plain English slide deck that explains:

  1. How cryptocurrency transactions work,
  2. What types of wallets are available, and
  3. When wallet providers actually have control of a user's coins.
You can access the slide deck here.

Based in Washington, D.C., Coin Center is the leading non-profit research and advocacy center focused on the public policy issues facing cryptocurrency and decentralized computing technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Our mission is to build a better understanding of these technologies and to promote a regulatory climate that preserves the freedom to innovate using permissionless blockchain technologies.