Newsweek has published a story purporting to have uncovered the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the enigmatic creator of cryptocurrency Bitcoin. A trail of investigation reportedly led to "a 64-year-old Japanese-American man whose name really is Satoshi Nakamoto," and who has "a career shrouded in secrecy, having done classified work for major corporations and the US military." Nakamoto is said to live in southern California and to have kept his work on Bitcoin secret even from his family.
In addition to interviews with family and friends, reporter Leah McGrath Goodman cites a single face-to-face interaction with Nakamoto, in which he "tacitly acknowledged" his role in the program. "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he said. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin to the world in 2008, but his identity has remained unknown, despite attempts by The New Yorker and others to unmask him. Current Bitcoin chief developer Gavin Andresen says that between 2010 and 2011, Nakamoto corresponded with him frequently by email and private message, giving away little about himself. In 2011, he asked Andresen to downplay the "mysterious founder" aspect of the currency, but since then, nothing has been heard from him.
Nakamoto dropped off the map in 2011
The man Newsweek spoke to, who goes by the name Dorian Nakamoto, is said to have a background in engineering and to have spent much of his life on defense projects. After leaving a job at Hughes Aircraft (now part of Raytheon), he reportedly worked as a computer engineer who sometimes took on independent military projects.
The case isn't airtight. Goodman appears to have spoken to Nakamoto only briefly, though she cites longer interviews with his siblings and children. Much of the report hinges on matching the timelines between Nakamoto the Bitcoin creator and Nakamoto the engineer, including the years it might have taken him to write the code and a period of ill health that could explain his absence from the Bitcoin project over the past few years. It also relies on parallels between Nakamoto's libertarian political beliefs and the principles of Bitcoin, designed to be anonymous and to operate independently of government regulation.
I'm disappointed Newsweek decided to dox the Nakamoto family, and regret talking to Leah.— Gavin Andresen (@gavinandresen) March 6, 2014
Nonetheless, it's the closest anyone has gotten to actually finding Nakamoto, which also raises ethical questions — is it fair to so thoroughly expose a man who has gone to great lengths to stay anonymous? In addition to an alleged photograph of him, an image of his house could be matched to, say, Google Street View photographs, and precise details are given about his job history, family, and car model. Attempts to visit his house even seem to have ended in him calling the police: Goodman's only interaction with him in person was mediated by law enforcement.
Update: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the Newsweek article did not publish a photograph of Nakamoto. Since publication, Buzzfeed writer Hunter Schwarz has also apparently tracked down Nakamoto and posted video of him saying he is "not involved" with Bitcoin, though he does not confirm or deny a role in its creation.