Did Newsweek unmask the father of Bitcoin?

The bitcoin mystery has just gotten even more mystifying.

Newsweek claims to have tracked down the secretive inventor of Bitcoin. Rather than being a tech wunderkind, the man Newsweek identifies as the mastermind behind the global digital currency is a 64-year-old, twice-married, Japanese-American man with six children, who lives in a Los Angeles suburb. He reportedly developed the concept for Bitcoin under his actual name -- Satoshi Nakamoto.

The claim has yet to be independently proven, and The Associated Press said Thursday night that it had tracked down Nakamoto and that he denied any involvement.

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Newsweek
According to Newsweek, Nakamoto has a degree in physics from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., and had worked in the past on classified projects for the government.

Gavin Andresen, an early Bitcoin collaborator who reportedly claimed to have never even spoken with Nakamoto on the phone, told Newsweek reporter Leah McGrath Goodman that he thought the inventor had come up with Bitcoin "for political reasons."

Family members reportedly said that Nakamoto has not been forthcoming with them about his involvement with Bitcoin. Perhaps one of the larger mysteries is why he has yet to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars his Bitcoins are currently worth, particularly when his family says that he could use the money.

The man AP interviewed, however, identified himself as Dorian S. Nakamoto and said he had never even heard of Bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a reporter three weeks ago.

So is he or isn't he?

Reaction to the Newsweek story has been strong on social media. On Twitter, Andresen said that he was "disappointed" that the publication would "dox" -- Internet slang for publishing personal information -- Nakamoto and his family. He also wrote, "(I) regret talking to Leah (Goodman)."

Negative reactions are also coming from the wider Bitcoin community.

The virtual alternative currency Bitcoin is an intriguing innovation and one that continues to carry a wave of controversy. It is a combination of technology, social movement, and potential economic force that allows people to directly send payments to one another without moving them through the traditional banking system.

Prices have soared and plunged, particularly when it was discovered that thieves had allegedly raided a major Bitcoin exchange, driving the company into bankruptcy.

One of the traits of the Bitcoin concept has been transparency of transactions. There is an irony, because the inventor of the system, with its publicly recorded transactions, had been secretive. Various people have denied being behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, who briefly became a billionaire last year. Only, if the Newsweek report is correct, it wasn't a pseudonym.


  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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