Google’s inclusion of Bitcoin wallet balances sparks privacy debate

Google has expanded its features to allow users to search wallet balances across blockchains such as Bitcoin, Arbitrum, Avalanche, Optimism, Polygon, and Fantom. When entering the wallet address, search results display the token balance by network along with the last updated time.

Users can search three Bitcoin address formats — P2PKH, P2SH, and Bech32 — to view current balances and recent transaction updates.

Incorporating Bitcoin data into search results boosts Google’s accessibility to on-chain activity, leveraging its extensive daily search volume. 

While some applaud this move toward mainstream adoption, privacy-centric Bitcoin supporters have raised concerns about centralized data aggregation and its impact on privacy.

An example of a Google Bitcoin wallet search. Source: Google

Google’s latest feature comes after it introduced Ethereum Name Service (ENS) domain search results allowing users to check wallet balances with readable domain names like “vitalik.eth” for Ethereum wallet addresses.

Google’s recent expansions build on its initial introduction of Ethereum wallet balance searches in May last year. In 2022, Google integrated a crypto feature enabling some Ethereum wallet addresses to have their Ether (ETH) balances tracked by the Google search engine, saving the need to make the trip to Etherscan.

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The addition of wallet searches marks a shift in attitude by the tech giant. Google prohibited Bitcoin-related advertisements in 2018 but recently reversed its stance, allowing Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) advertisements following their approval in January.

ETF products from notable asset managers like BlackRock now appear in search results.

In October 2022, Google partnered with Coinbase, allowing its customers to pay for cloud services with crypto.

The tech firm also initiated a countdown to the Ethereum Merge event, at which Ethereum transitioned from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) in 2022 by featuring animated pandas moving in sync.

In 2023, Google Cloud joined forces with Web3 startup Orderly Network to…

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