Hiding Wallet Balances

Comparison of several bitcoin wallets and how they show balances

I’ve participated in several discussions in the Bitcoin Design Community about hiding wallet balances.

The Basic Summary

By default, most wallets display the bitcoin balance very prominently on the home screen of the app. This could be a risk to the user, as they may not want anyone peeking over their shoulder and seeing their funds.

One proposed solution is a “tap to reveal” button: basically, the balance is hidden or blurred out, and the user must tap or hold a button in the app to reveal the balance.

Theory vs. Practice

Now that I have been in El Salvador for approximately 48 hours, I can tell you with absolute certainty: hiding wallet balances is extremely critical. This is not a “nice to have” feature. This should be considered a required feature for a wallet that will be used for daily spending.

👆 A sample of hiding wallet balances, from Christoph Ono’s Bitcoin UI Kit.

Typically, when I am about to pay someone in bitcoin, I am standing in front of a person at a cash register. There may be a line behind me, or people walking around in the background. Knowing that my non-custodial wallets may need a moment to sync up with a node or update block filters, I typically have my app open in the foreground before I am presented with the LN invoice QR code.

I’ll just point out this is a little scary. I don’t want people seeing my wallet balance when I pull out my phone and prepare to scan the LN invoice, even for a split second. Physical assaults are not a joke. Setting aside the scary stuff listed in that link, mugging is a common crime.

Note that this sort of security measure applies to everyone, not just folks with high balances. Somebody new to Bitcoin could learn that it’s a highly valuable asset, then see a flash of a screen that says something like “1,000 sats” and think that’s a lot of money.

It’s one thing to talk about these things as hypotheticals while we are HODLing our Bitcoin and dreaming of the future; it’s quite another thing to experience the feeling of insecurity.

Fortunately, the neighborhoods I am traveling through are very safe and no harm has befallen me or any of my friends; I’m grateful for that. What I am describing here is simply how I feel as a user when I’m interacting with this technology.