On Wednesday (January 22), famous gold bug Peter Schiff finally admitted that he lost access to the bitcoin held in his Blockchain Wallet because he had misunderstood how this wallet works. However, not all the blame for this incident should be pointed to Schiff.
Schiff is the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, a full-service, registered broker/dealer specializing in foreign markets and securities, and founder and Chairman of SchiffGold, a full-service, discount precious metals dealer. He is also a man who is extremely bullish on gold, bearish on the U.S. dollar, and highly skeptical about Bitcoin.
On 4 July 2019, Schiff revealed that he owned some Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), and Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and said that he was going to HODL his bitcoin no matter what happens to the Bitcoin price.
Then, last Sunday (January 19), Schiff took to Twitter to express his anger with Bitcoin after allegedly losing access to the crypto wallet that holds his bitcoin:
I just lost all the #Bitcoin I have ever owned. My wallet got corrupted somehow and my password is no longer valid. So now not only is my Bitcoin intrinsically worthless; it has no market value either. I knew owning Bitcoin was a bad idea, I just never realized it was this bad! pic.twitter.com/6SJvDJOZU6— Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) January 19, 2020
Although Schiff said at the time that the wallet app he was using -- which we know know was the iOS version of Blockchain Wallet (made by Blockchain.com) -- had "somehow" become "corrupted" and that is why his password -- which he was sure of remembering correctly -- was being rejected, most people in CryptoTwitter seemed to believe that this was just a case of a "boomer" who has simply forgotten his wallet's password:
Translation: You forgot your password?— Pomp 🌪 (@APompliano) January 19, 2020
Same thing happens to your email if you’re irresponsible and forget your password, Peter 🤷🏽♂️
Eric Voorhees, Founder and CEO of ShapeShift, whom Schiff claims was the person who set up Schiff's wallet in the first place, says that it is Schiff who is to blame (and not Bitcoin) for forgetting his password and not making a note of his wallet's recovery phrase:
Here's what happened: after debate in 2018, we went to dinner. Peter had never used bitcoin before (!) I helped him set up wallet on his phone (Edge or BRD?), told him to secure it if he ever held significant value on it, gave him $50. He forgot pw, and never recorded phrase. 😑 https://t.co/kcQkAyU9Rv— Erik Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees) January 19, 2020
However, last night (January 22), three days after first reporting the loss of access to his entire Bitcoin holdings (which had mostly been gifted to him by members of the crypto community on Twitter), Schiff admitted that this situation was not due to a corrupt wallet but the fact that he had been confused about the concepts of PIN and password for his Blockchain Wallet; what made things worse was that he did not know/have neither the password nor the 12-word backup/recovery phrase:
My #Bitcoin mystery is solved. I mistook my pin for my password. When Blockchain updated their app I got logged out. I tired logging back in using my pin, which was the only "password" I had ever known or used. I also never had a copy of my seed phrase. Honest but costly mistake!— Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) January 23, 2020
To clarify my last tweet I was not able to recover my #Bitcoin. Since I never actually knew my password, just the pin, and never had a copy of my seed phrase, I have no way to recover the Bitcoin. So the problem was not a corrupted wallet, but my confusing a pin for a password.— Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) January 23, 2020
Having spent some time playing with the Blockchain Wallet, here is one possible explanation for what really happened.
When you create a new Blockchain Wallet, you are asked to specify an email address (which acts as your username), a password (which is needed in case you ever logout or are logged out of your wallet), and a 4-digit PIN (which the wallet apps asks for -- if you have not setup biometric authentication -- whenever it is restarted, in order to "decrypt" your wallet).
It is essential to note that the Blockchain Wallet does not force the user to record a 12-word or 24-word recovery/seed phrase at the time that the wallet is being created, i.e. this step is optional. After the wallet has been created, you need to go to the app's menu and choose "Backup Funds", at which point you are asked to write down each of the 12 words of the "backup phrase" the app assigns to your wallet.
So, if Schiff is telling the truth about never knowing the password of the backup phrase, then it looks like the person who created the wallet for him (i.e. Vooerhees) may have not told Schiff the wallet's password and not told him to make a note of the backup phrase.
Therefore, we can certainly blame Schiff for not bothering to understand how his wallet works, but it is also true that developers of crypto wallets need to do more to improve wallet usability in order to prepare for the mainstream adoption of crypto.