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I understand a full node downloads and validates the entire transaction history. Can a full node read and understand these downloaded transactions, or is it just just keeping a copy of encoded information?

I'd appreciate if you could mention your sources' links in this regard.

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Can a full node read and understand these downloaded transactions, ...

Yes.

or just it's just keeping a copy of encoded information?

You write "encoded" but the context makes it seem you may have meant "encrypted"

The Bitcoin network does not encrypt any data. None of the data in the blockchain is encrypted. It is all publicly readable information in plain sight.

The answer you are reading right now is encoded. The encoding used is UTF-8.

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  • Thank you for answering my question and sorry for the typo. So if I understand correctly, a full node can see the transaction details but not the private keys, therefore it can't figure out who are the sender and recipient, is that correct? – zbbo Apr 28 at 4:37
  • @zbbo It can see the receiving addresses and public keys. Information about the sender and recipient can be inferred from that information. – David Schwartz Apr 28 at 20:47
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All info on transactions and more generally on blockchain are readable and understandable by every full node. All the info you find on a blockchain explorer are basically asked to a full node, if you want you can run your own blockchain explorer querying your node.

There is no privileged actors in Bitcoin network, all node share the same info and capabilities ... and this does not refer only to physically possessing the info but also to read and know them.

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  • Thanks a lot for your answer; could you also check my complementary question too? So a full node can see the transaction details but not the private keys, therefore it can't figure out who are the sender and recipient; is it so? – zbbo Apr 28 at 8:31
  • Not exactly, private keys give you ability to spend bitcoin on its address, they are not giving more info on transactions. If you intend sender and recipient as addresses, anyone can see them, instead if you mean people there is no association between addr and person, so the only way you can know which is owner of an addr (sender or recipient make no difference) is that the owner himself tell you. – leevancleef Apr 28 at 10:17
  • Much appreciated, got it. – zbbo Apr 28 at 11:55
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Can a full node read and understand these downloaded transactions, or just it's just keeping a copy of encoded information?

Full node is not just a downloading software or download manager. It can read, understand and do lot of things with local copy of blockchain.

RPC commands which can be helpful in understanding things a full node can do: https://bitcoincore.org/en/doc/0.21.0/

Example: getrawtransaction can be used to check details for any transaction (requires txindex=1 in bitcoin.conf)

Incentives or reasons to run and use a full node: https://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/a/103219/

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  • Thanks a lot for your answer; could you also check my complementary question too? So a full node can see the transaction details but not the private keys, therefore it can't figure out who are the sender and recipient; is it so? – zbbo Apr 28 at 8:32
  • Nobody can see the private keys looking at transactions. Private keys are not present in blockchain, not meant to be shared and something that is used by owner to sign transactions. Details: bitcoin.stackexchange.com/a/99791 – Prayank Apr 28 at 8:35
  • Many thanks :-) – zbbo Apr 28 at 11:55

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