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  • Second-Largest Indian State to Use Blockchain in Various Spheres
    by Aaron Wood on August 19, 2019 at 1:48 am

    The second-largest state in India, Maharashtra, is ramping up its plans to apply blockchain tech across various spheres of administration. The government of the Indian state of Maharashtra is preparing a regulatory sandbox for testing blockchain solutions across various applications. According to a report by Indian English-language news daily DNA India on Aug. 19, the government aims to apply blockchain technology in supply chains, agricultural marketing, vehicle registration and document management. The Maharashtra Information Technology Directorate will lead the development and the government has already earmarked 100 million rupees (~$1.4 million) for blockchain adoption from 2019–2020. 40 million ($560,000) has been approved outright by the implementation committee. State IT department principal secretary S.V.R. Srinivas told DNA India:"The state government is adopting a cutting edge technology to help enhance efficiency in the governance. Already the government has completed its first blockchain pilot in the fields of health, supply chain, documents and SSC certificates. A detailed report has been prepared to go in for extensive use of blockchain technology in various government departments. A regulatory sandbox, which will be a common framework for adopting blockchain technology, will be prepared in next five to six months.''Containing the capital of Mumbai, the state of Maharashtra is the second-largest state in India and is home to over 114 million people. The state’s government previously signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bahrain Economic Development Board to develop a framework for the joint promotion of fintech. Various Indian companies and government institutions have been applying blockchain technology to their businesses and administrative models. In June, news broke that the Reserve Bank of India is developing a blockchain platform for banking in its R&D branch.Last week, Indian telecoms provider Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited announced that it was developing one of the world’s largest blockchain networks. The firm’s chairman and managing director Shri Mukesh D. Ambani said, “Over the next 12 months, Jio will install across India one of the largest blockchain networks in the world, with tens of thousands of nodes operational on day one.” Jio has a current user base of over 330 million people.&nbs […]

  • Coinbase and Barclays Part Ways, Will UK Users Be Affected?
    by Justin O’Connell on August 18, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Barclays halts business with Coinbase as exchange needs an innovative bank to tailor to its AML and KYC needs, but will U.K. customers be better off now? It is being reported that Barclays, the London-based global bank, recently stopped banking for Coinbase, the United States-based crypto exchange. Coinbase reportedly found a quick replacement in the form of another United Kingdom-based establishment, ClearBank. While Barclays connected San Francisco-based Coinbase to the U.K. Faster Payments Scheme (FPS), enabling instant withdrawals and deposits of British pounds at the exchange, ClearBank won’t offer the exchange the same service until at least the end of Q3 2019. Deposits and withdrawals in pounds for Coinbase’s U.K. customers, which once took seconds, will for now take days to process. In the wake of Barclay’s decision regarding Coinbase, reports contended that major Spanish bank Santander had blocked U.K. customers from depositing fiat funds to the exchange. Santander spokesperson told Cointelegraph that the reports are untrue:“We do not block payments to any legitimate company, however, in certain circumstances we will refer payments for additional security checks, where we believe there may be a higher risk of fraud.”Business as usual? Not quite...Before it had access to FPS, the exchange, which has offices in Dublin and London, transferred pounds into euros through the Estonia-based LHV Pank, which still banks Coinbase. Having experimented with colored coins for Bitcoin-based certificates of deposit, LHV — the largest locally owned bank and asset management in Estonia — seems to take a more open approach toward blockchain than Barclays.“The Bitcoin blockchain is the oldest, most tested and secure [public-key cryptography], and hence suitable for our current applications,” Rain Lõhmus, chairman of the supervisory board of LHV, told Cointelegraph in 2015. But LHV couldn’t offer Coinbase the same luxuries as Barclays.“Having domestic GBP payments with Barclays reduces the cost, improves the customer experience… and makes the transaction faster,” Zeeshan Feroz, CEO of Coinbase U.K., said shortly after Barclays first banked Coinbase.Feroz told Reuters that it took a lot of effort and time to get Barclays to bank Coinbase, as the former sought to ensure the exchange had implemented appropriate Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures. The exchange was one of the first blockchain firms to have access to FPS with Barclays decision.“There’s a lot of understanding and risk management that’s needed,” Feroz said, noting at the time that the European Union grew “twice as fast as any of our other markets in 2017,” and that the U.K. was its largest market in the bloc. Joshua Scigala, CEO of Bitcoin and allocated gold order book exchange Vaultoro, cites “huge” banking regulations that may have forced Barclays to close Coinbase’s account: “The old guard banking industry helped write the massive banking regulations to make it too hard for startups to compete with the regulatory burden. The problem is that this might have come back to bite them because now banks have built such a large regulatory moat around themselves that they cannot innovate.”Barclays wanted to bring Bitcoin “into play”Barclays U.K. CEO Ashok Vaswani once told CNBC that the bank and U.K. regulators were discussing cryptocurrencies, though he did not reveal exactly what the talks with Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revolved around. He did say the discussions centered on how to bring Bitcoin “into play” and how to make it safe in an interview to CNBC at the 2017 edition of the Money 20/20 fintech conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.In 2015, the British multinational ran a pilot with Safello Bitcoin exchange on a “proof-of-concept.” The bank confirmed in 2016 that it banked Circle Internet Financial, whose main app at the time was Circle Pay, an FCA-regulated app that uses Bitcoin to help facilitate no-fee currency transfers. Barclays held Circle customer deposits. In 2019, the bank sponsored a blockchain hackathon, as reported by Cointelegraph. While he acknowledges big banks talk the talk, Scigala isn’t so sure they walk the walk when it comes to blockchain:“Barclay's just like some other large players are all talking no real action when it comes to cryptocurrency. A lot of these large players will drum the word blockchain around in the media to sound modern and like they are innovative but when it comes to the actual crunch they block or even internally boycott all serious businesses working in the space. Barclays is not alone in this attitude.”Barclay analysts viewed Bitcoin as a viral infectionDespite discussing with regulators ways to make Bitcoin safe, Barclay analysts once compared it to the flu. “Like infection, transmission — especially to those with ‘fear of missing out’ — is by word-of-month, via blogs, news reports and personal anecdotes,” Barclays analyst Joseph Abate allegedly wrote in a note to clients. “However, once full adoption is approached, the price decline is sustained and rapid.” Barclay’s model divided the global population into three sectors, including those who are susceptible, those who are vulnerable but not infected, and those who are immune. The “infected” are the 0.1% who first bought cryptocurrencies. Another segment, comprised of 25% of the population, is susceptible to the Bitcoin bug due to “fear of missing out.” Some are immune and will never purchase bitcoin.Barclays noted that Bitcoin could see demand from weak economies. “Cryptocurrencies may have a home in low-trust corners of the global economy,” Abate said. “Broader adoption of crypto technologies faces critical challenges and strong incumbents.”Money laundering fears to blame?Multiple sources told Cointelegraph that they believe Barclays closed Coinbase’s account due to AML concerns. Governments have levied $17 billion in AML-related penalties since 2009, and the EU and U.S. AML protocols continue to get tougher. Danske Bank is currently facing between $6 billion to $8 billion in fines for what some analysts have dubbed the largest money laundering scandal ever. Regulators have also either investigated or fined Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the U.K. division of India’s canara bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Goldman Sachs. Jason Blick, CEO of EQIBank, a global digital banking for business and high-net-worth individuals, evoked AML and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations as potential reasons for Barclays to close Coinbase’s account: “Internal siloed systems of traditional banks are not designed to deal with disruptive or innovative industries. Many banks are facing record fines for AML and KYC breaches. Most traditional banks simply don’t understand how to manage perceived risks with digital assets and cryptocurrencies.”In addition to AML and KYC challenges with new consumer demands and technology, Blick noted how some incumbent banks have had problems keeping their services online. Global banking giant HSBC is just one of several major banks that have faced tech outages that left customers unable to access online bank accounts and other services. Customers at Bank of America, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest have all endured similar issues. “They can’t cope with the demand for ‘instant on-demand banking’ expected by crypto clients and industries,” Blick said, citing the slow, albeit reliable legacy technology upon which big banks depend. He also went on to add:“But the world has changed. We've gone mobile and online. We expect real-time transactions and access to financial services around the clock. Big banks, like Barclays, can’t keep up.”Blick noted that challenger banks like ClearBank “have innovation in their DNA” and can use behavioral analytics for KYC and AML. “Challengers are at the forefront of leveraging digital technology to shape the future of banking,” he said. Scigala added: “Large institutions like Barclays will make themselves obsolete if they don't embrace rare digital assets and programmable money as a whole.&rdquo […]

  • Would Blockchain Better Protect User Data Than FaceApp? Experts Answer
    by Max Yakubowski on August 18, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Experts in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries take on concerns about users' privacy violations connected with the popular FaceApp mobile application. FaceApp — the mobile application that has blown up your Instagram feed with pictures of your followers as old people, the opposite gender or babies — has raised a lot of concerns about potential privacy violations for users that upload their photos to be edited. Rumors have circulated that the application might even be taking users’ photos from their phones and uploading them to the FaceApp cloud server without explicit permission. We reached out to experts in security and data privacy from academia, government agencies, startups and more to comment on the issues surrounding users’ privacy, asking them their opinions about the concerns associated with traditional applications as opposed to blockchain-based decentralized applications (DApps).FaceApp uses artificial intelligence as well as a neural network to edit users’ images. The one function that made the mobile app suddenly popular last month after its 2017 release was the function that allows you to predict how you would look in the future. Along with a wave of popularity among users, more and more questions have arisen about the application’s security, the fact that it’s based in Russia (which apparently briefly spooked a New York Times reporter) and company's unclear terms of use. Karissa Bell, Mashable's senior tech reporter, wrote that the app allows you to select photos from your photo gallery, even if you have a general ban set on access to it. Allegations that the app was able to “hoover” up all of the photos in your gallery were later denied by FaceApp. United States Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI to conduct a privacy investigation into FaceApp, underlining that “it is not clear how the artificial intelligence application retains the data of users or how users may ensure the deletion of their data after usage.” Justin Brookman, a former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation, said, “I would be cautious about uploading sensitive data to this company that does not take privacy very seriously, but also reserves broad rights to do whatever they want with your pictures.” Meanwhile, FaceApp denied selling or sharing user data with third parties without permission, adding: “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”However, as was pointed out in the second paragraph of the fifth section of the FaceApp’s terms of use, by using this application, you provide FaceApp absolute freedom to do everything with your image:“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.” Could a blockchain-based DApp be much better for users’ privacy and security? Oh, for sure DApps can be better for privacy and security — if they work, and they work for more than 50 people at a time!Scaling vs. security is a classic dilemma. Privacy vs. security is the other one. My question would be: Why does the world need another app/DApp? Why aren't you building infrastructure and interoperability toward intelligent decentralization, personal agency and transparency?I guess DApps could in an ideal world — but honestly, I'm not seeing useful things work in a decentralized way as much as I'd like. — Susan Oh,  CEO of Muckr.AI and board member of Blockchain for Impact at the United Nations General Assembly Native mobile applications leak a lot of data. Every app on your phone claims rights to your information when you're in the application, and sometimes, even when you're not using that application, it will still collect data in the background without your consent (this is very prevalent with software development kits). The entire app ecosystem is due for an overhaul. Decentralized applications are a move in the right direction; however, many will not be truly decentralized if there is one party controlling the transactions or the data. The purpose of decentralization is to distribute the transactions and data to where no central party owns it. Therefore, in some cases, decentralized applications will be a misnomer as the app developer or publisher may maintain control. Facebook’s Libra is a misnomer with decentralization. The crypto payments in this case will be centralized through Facebook and easily trackable. In many ways, this would work against the ideology of cryptocurrencies because every transaction a person makes will be tracked as the person will be identified by the developer of the protocol and coin (in this case, Facebook). The risk is if other app developers pursue a similar model of using blockchain to record every transaction while also verifying identity through various ways. Facial recognition is permanent; you can change your social security number, your phone number and even your name. But you cannot change your face. Combine this with blockchain transactions and one can easily imagine a dystopian level of surveillance. The best blockchain apps will truly be decentralized and not linked to data like facial recognition, social media data, bank data (like the JPMorgan coin), etc. — Beth Kindig, product evangelist for Intertrust, former developer evangelist for Personagraph, specialist in security and data privacy Many privacy concerns arise from what companies choose to do with the data that they collect. Storing data for a given duration in its servers is a choice made by apps like FaceApp. So a blockchain application would be better for people’s privacy as far as it’s designed to be better, which is a value-laden term.Companies can exert a lot of control over how they design an application, through its architecture, default settings, what it communicates in its privacy policies, and what it does in practice. The value for a consumer concerned about her privacy would depend on the blockchain application and the kind of data collected and processed by it.— Deirdre K. Mulligan, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information, clinical professor of law at Berkeley Law  With the existing, centralized way of doing things, someone merely needs to gain access to a server to then steal, alter or basically do whatever they want with the data stored there. You only need to look to the high profile hacks of Capital One and Equifax to see that. Blockchains are built around the principles of decentralization, removing the single point of failure risk (think Equifax servers) and cutting out unnecessary third parties by establishing a more direct, peer-to-peer network. This also maintains your privacy and control of your data from third-party apps as data rests at the protocol instead of the application layer. For something like FaceApp, this means you could temporarily grant access to your photo stored on the blockchain in order to use its fun filters, but FaceApp wouldn't be able to maintain a copy (due to encryption and the control of your private key resting with you). Something like this will definitely exist in the not so distant future and we will wonder why we ever blindly gave up so much control of our personal data to use things like today's social media platforms.— Timothy Paolini, board member, NYU Blockchain FaceApp, and any entity that uses facial recognition, should be of concern for everyone. FaceApp’s terms state that once you give it access to your face and name, the company has a permanent license to do whatever it wants with them. This includes sharing/selling your face and name to unknown third parties. You can always change a password if it becomes compromised — you can’t change your face. We believe in decentralization as a promising path to ensure web users worldwide have control of their data. MeWe is advised by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and we are closely following Tim’s current work on the Solid project. Solid decentralizes the web by giving web users the freedom to choose where their data resides and who is allowed to access it. MeWe plans to be an early adopter of Solid.— Mark Weinstein, CEO and founder of MeWe  FaceApp exposed what infosec experts have long known — video, image, audio and especially written content is extremely difficult to accurately authenticate as unmodified or produced by a given individual. At Audius, we focus on audio: Determining which part of a song came from where is nearly impossible. Technology like FaceApp will lead to the proliferation of more hoaxes and fake content purporting to be generated authentically, exacerbating problems with inaccurate news that we already deal with every day. As a society, we will need to be more skeptical of the authenticity of digital content. The identity of the publisher will become a more important part of that equation in the absence of other cues. With Audius, for example, you can authenticate that a specific artist produced a given piece of content, because that artist’s private key was used to sign the transaction that added the content to the network. Similarly, I believe we'll see media outlets like CNN or The New York Times starting to authenticate that they actually produced given content by signing it with a public/private key mechanism.— Roneil Rumburg, CEO and co-founder of Audius. These quotes have been edited and condensed.The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph. […]

  • Silvergate Bank Plans to Offer Cryptocurrency-Collateralized Loans
    by Adrian Zmudzinski on August 18, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Silvergate Bank’s Silvergate Capital Corporation is examining the possibility of offering cryptocurrency loans. The holding company of cryptocurrency-friendly Silvergate Bank, Silvergate Capital Corporation, announced that the firm plans to offer cryptocurrency-collateralized loans. In an S1/A form filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Aug. 15 the bank notes: “We believe there may be attractive opportunities to provide digital currency borrowing facilities to deepen our high quality customer relationships and further enhance our interest income.” In the document, the firm states that it found significant demand for cryptocurrency-related borrowing. The service would consist of the client providing crypto assets or U.S. dollars as collateral in exchange for significantly greater credit. The bank would then “set a conservative aggregate lending amount to refine the product, and will develop a risk framework to minimize risk and further develop lending models over time.” The company stated that it anticipates to offer the crypto-related credit product to institutional clients later this year. Silvergate also notes that it found significant desire from its clients for the bank “to be involved in the custody and transfer of digital assets between customers.” Owler estimates Silvergate Bank’s annual revenue to be $30 million. As Cointelegraph reported in March, Silvergate Bank signed on a slew of new cryptocurrency customers including cryptocurrency exchanges and miners, custodians and global investors, among others in the fourth quarter of 2018. In 2018, Silvergate’s deposits derived from cryptocurrency customers reportedly increased by $150.4 million, or around 11.4%. […]

  • Bitcoin Circles $10,400 as Altcoins Rally, XRP Posts 10% Gains
    by Marie Huillet on August 18, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    The crypto markets are seeing a wave of green, with altcoins posting the strongest gains and Bitcoin close to $10,400. Sunday, Aug. 18 — Crypto markets are seeing a strong surge of green, with altcoins posting the strongest gains and Bitcoin (BTC) circling the $10,400 mark.Market visualization. Source: Coin360After yesterday’s correction, BTC is today up nearly 2%, bringing it to $10,393 by press time. While still roughly $1,000 short of its price point at the start of its 7-day chart,  (Aug. 11), today’s recovery has kept the top coin comfortably above the $10,000 psychological price point. During a brief downturn mid-week on Aug. 15, Bitcoin had dropped as low as $9,700. On the week, Bitcoin remains 9% in the red.Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360Top altcoin Ether (ETH) has posted a strong gain of over 7% and is trading around $197 by press time. Having dropped below the $200 mark on Aug. 14, Ether’s fresh gains are now edging it back above this threshold. Losses on the week remain at a stark 7.86%.Ether 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360XRP is seeing an even more bullish 10% gain on the day, and is posting a milder 5% loss on its seven-day chart.Among the remaining top ten coins several alts are seeing solid upward momentum: Litecoin (LTC) is up 6.5% on the day, EOS (EOS) is up 6% and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is up 5.7%. Widening out to the top twenty, alts are performing strongly across the board. Cardano (ADA), Unus Sed Leo (LEO) and Tron (TRX) are all up between 7-9% over the past 24 hours. Chainlink (LINK) is seeing a close to 7% gain on the day, with Stellar (XLM) up close to 5.6%. Dash (DASH), Tezos (XTZ), NEO (NEO) and IOTA (MIOTA) are all posting gains of 3.5-5%. Total market capitalization for all cryptocurrencies is at $267,390,988,350 at press time, according to Coin360 data.In alt development news, the team at NEO revealed they were considering integrating Celer Network’s (CELR) layer-two scaling protocol to improve scalability. If finalized, the prospective integration would see the NEO blockchain benefit from Celer’s solution for faster off-chain transactions for payments as well as generalized off-chain smart contracts. As the alts spearhead today’s market recovery, the community continues to scrutinize the flows of ill-gotten proceeds from the $2.9 billion crypto investment heist PlusToken. As reported, over $240 million in proceeds were reportedly moved yesterday through four Bitcoin-denominated transactions.In traditional markets, analysts are anticipating the opening remarks from United States Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell at the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium this coming Thursday. Market researcher James Bianco told CNBC today, Aug. 18, that after last week’s turbulence — which saw the 10-year Treasury yield dropping below the 2-year rate for the first time since 2007 — robust action from the Fed would be needed to avoid further negative market trends:“We could see another plunge in rates. We could see further movement down in yields and the yield curve and more volatility and problems in the markets. He [Powell] should move aggressively,”Keep track of top crypto markets in real time her […]