Coinbase just made a huge, very abstract deal with ICE


Max total to be paid by ICE to Coinbase.

You know that feeling when two of the worst people you know start dating? Anyway, Coinbase just signed a deal with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department to the tune of $1.36 million, for which it will provide ICE with data and analytics around how Americans are buying and spending various cryptocurrencies. The deal, as spotted by Decrypt, is pretty vague; it says only that Coinbase will provide ICE with “application development software.”

This isn’t Coinbase’s first government contract. The crypto company has already worked out deals with Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the past. None of those deals came even close to the $1.36 million ICE has awarded Coinbase in this week’s filling.

Coinbase’s politics have always been — how do we say this kindly? — a little less than ethical. Partnering with ICE, an agency best known for pulling shady shit to incarcerate and deport immigrants, isn’t exactly a great look for Coinbase. But when did ethics ever stop this company from doing anything possible to make a fast buck?

No clue what they’re up to — The details of this particular deal are being kept quiet. No blog post update from either ICE or Coinbase; no official statement or even a tweet. That’s par for the course for Coinbase’s government deals, so we wouldn’t expect more details to be forthcoming.

It’s Coinbase’s Analytics arm that will be doing business with ICE, a segment of the company dedicated to creating and perpetuating software that analyzes blockchain activity. The blockchain itself is all available to the public, but the millions of transactions happening on it every day make it quite difficult for the average person to analyze.

Coinbase Analytics provides software that does just this. The company says its software can connect crypto transactions to real-world entities and investigate fraudulent blockchain activity.

Slow down, CB — Coinbase was founded in 2012, but the crypto exchange has only really begun to pick up speed in the last few years. So much so that Coinbase was able to go public earlier this year and even has its own crypto-backed debit card.

With some notable success in its back pocket, Coinbase’s dreams have grown lofty and erratic. Earlier this month, the company announced its intention to launch Lend, an ambitious program allowing customers to earn up to 4 percent interest for lending out crypto. The SEC threatened to sue and, lo and behold, Coinbase quietly shelved the Lend program this week.