BitCraft app - this Silk Road clone lets you find people nearby and pay them anonymously for good and services
BitCraft app - this Silk Road clone lets you find people nearby and pay them anonymously for good and services

A developer is working on a new mobile app that allows users to anonymously trade goods and services from other users nearby, using bitcoins – essentially an anonymous equivalent of Gumtree or Craigslist.

Reddit user CiniCraft has posted the link to BitCraft, a new "Silk Road Clone" for mobile that is now in beta mode for users to test out.

Currently only accessible in a web browser, users can sign up for an account, which includes a public profile, a wallet they can add bitcoins to, a private inbox, and a public chat message board for their local region.

Users of the app can also locate users providing services and goods they want on an interactive map, provided using the Google Maps API.

CiniCraft said that the app is meant primarily for iOS and Android device users, and told another user that the app's developers are not currently considering making the app available for Windows Phone.

The app is mostly empty for the moment, but CiniCraft's post is gaining popularity on the social bookmarking network.

Is anonymity guaranteed on a mobile device?

So far, no one on Reddit has asked a crucial question though – is it possible to securely make anonymous deals using a mobile app without anyone finding out?

"If [the police] had the specific telephone number for a suspect then they could through issuing a warrant be able to verify whether they use the app but that's it. If users want complete anonymity then they could look to develop a true peer to peer app, in other words to be used between two parties," SRD Wireless CEO Andersen Cheng told IBTimes UK.

Notorious online drugs marketplace Silk Road, which was only accessible through the Tor Anonymity network (known as the "dark web" or "deep web"), was shut down by the FBI in October 2013.

Silk Road website
Silk Road website Screengrab

At the time, it had 13,000 listings of illegal goods, including illegal drugs, firearms, chemicals and counterfeit products, and the bitcoins held on the server by Silk Road's alleged operator Ross Ulbricht are now being auctioned off by the US government.

When Silk Road was still running, users were advised to use Tor browser apps such as OnionBrowser in order to securely access the website, but even this method is not considered to be completely anonymous.

Kaspersky Lab's senior security researcher David Emm told IBTimes UK: "In the case of an app like this, the key is the communication route being used for the transaction. If someone is using the Tor network, then it can remain anonymous, [but] if they are using a regular connection through their ISP then anonymity can't be guaranteed.

"[Also], there's always the risk of malware on the device itself being used to capture data from the app. That's why we would recommend that people using Bitcoin don't store their Bitcoin wallet on the device itself."

Perhaps the app has a chance if it can emulate the peer-to-peer network capabilities of OpenBazaar (formerly DarkMarket), whose creators won $20,000 at the Toronto Bitcoin Hackerthon in April for their innovative design.

OpenBazaar enables buyers and sellers to connect to each other directly through a secure piece of software downloaded to their computers, instead of having to go through a central marketplace.

No central server

As there is no central server hosting OpenBazaar and the users' identities and locations are kept anonymous, it will be quite difficult for law enforcement agencies to prosecute users for buying illegal goods and services.

Find people nearby and buy goods anonymously using bitcoins from them
Find people nearby and buy goods anonymously using bitcoins from them

Another good feature about OpenBazaar is that a trusted third party holds onto the money from the buyer until the goods have been received from the seller.

One Reddit user raised the issue that the app could be just as dangerous as meeting someone to buy something based on an online listing, like the man who was killed for a Playstation 4 in December.

Since Silk Road was shut down, several other websites have tried to take its place, such as Utopia, which was shut down by Dutch police in February; Silk Road 2.0 and Sheep Marketplace, which were both hacked; and BlackMarket Reloaded, which closed of its own accord.