Least we forget Aaron Swartz

I still remember the news in 2008 about Stanford’s student Aaron Swartz and all my thoughts then so I’m sharing the news today:
Aaron Swartz Day 2018 – Live Stream Link and Everything You Need To Know About This Year’s San Francisco Event
LIVE STREAM: https://tinyurl.com/ASDLiveStream
Here’s a little index that we’ll keep adding to over the next day or two:
TICKETS                           Located at: The Internet Archive
Projects to Hack On at the Conference (so far – as people can invent their own projects at any time over the course of the weekend!) (Including projects for non-programmers!)
Speaker Schedule (Saturday and Sunday)
VR Faire (new page coming soon), featuring:
-The EFF’s “Spot the Surveillance”
–Noisebridge‘s BCI (Brain Computer Interface) Application,
(new page coming soon)
–GameBridge‘s VR Tour of Noisebridge
Awesome plant-based food by LeCupboard
Opening Night Party at the DNA Lounge
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Three Roadblocks to Mass Adoption of Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology has been in existence for close to 10 years now. Yet adoption levels are still low. Ex-president and board member of overstock.com shares his perspective.

Perspectives of an Early Adopter
October 31st was celebrated as the 10th anniversary of the Bitcoin white paper being published by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. By January of 2009, the initial version of the protocol was released.
However, we are still far from its mass adoption. Overstock.com was one of the major early adopters of bitcoin as a method of payment.
Jonathan Johnson, the ex-president and board member at Overstock and President at Medici Ventures was part of the decision to embrace the technology.
In an article published on Techcrunch, Johnson shared the three challenges that according to him need to be addressed before the full potential of blockchain technology can be realized.
According to Johnson, Overstock was quick to realize the long-term potential of blockchain. The firm also understood that for broader adoption, start-ups in the space would need not only financial but also human capital.
To fill this gap, Overstock had set up Medici Ventures, a venture capital blockchain incubator. The firm is supporting start-ups in domains including capital markets, money transmission, and banking, voting, supply chain, property, and self-sovereign identity.

Hurdles to Adoption
In Johnson’s view, three challenges that are preventing the blockchain technology from having a broader impact are:
The shortage of good blockchain developers: According to Johnson, the demand for software engineers is growing as we become more dependent on computers and technology. Because blockchain is a new technology, it’s difficult to find developers who are skilled in it.
Johnson shares that Medici Ventures conducts regular training programs that include participants from different industries. This approach helps in sharing knowledge and in building the required human capital.
The attitude of Regulators: Johnson believes that legislators becoming aware of blockchain technology and its benefits is a good thing for adoption. But at the same time, the clamor for regulating any new technology stifles innovation.
He cites the example of the crackdown by SEC on US-based ICOs. The regulator believes that most of the tokens are securities and should comply with applicable laws. This has dampened the spirit of entrepreneurship.  Johnson argues that the reason why the internet became a powerful medium of change is that regulation was not thrust upon it.
Attaining critical mass: For blockchain technology to find wider adoption, the real-world use of wallets and cryptocurrencies is a must, believes Johnson. However, for that to happen the number of shoppers and merchants that accept cryptocurrencies needs to increase.
Currently, we are kind of stuck in a chicken and egg situation, and most people that hold cryptos are just speculative investors.
Johnson believes that once critical mass is achieved, exponential growth will follow. While he is excited to see instances of adoption like the US state of West Virginia enabling overseas citizens to vote remotely, he believes that we are still far from declaring blockchain a “mainstream technology.”
In Johnson’s words:
We’ll know blockchain technology has become mainstream when we are no longer talking about it, but we are simply using it in everyday ways.
Do you agree with the views expressed by Johnson? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Pixabay, ShutterStock
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ICO Crackdown Continues: Colorado Officials Issue Four New Cease and Desist Orders

Government agencies continue to target ICOs for potent rule violations. In Colorado, the Division of Securities has flagged four projects as potentially suspicious. These ICO projects are currently subject to a cease and desist order, bringing the total to twelve so far. It is another big step toward legitimizing initial coin offerings in the United States.

More ICOs Faces Regulatory Scrutiny
In the United States, a proverbial crusade against illicit ICOs is taking shape. The SEC is clamping down on every company violating securities guidelines or defrauding investors. Individual US states also take similar measures if the need arises. For Colorado’s Division of Securities, four projects are on the radar and received cease and desist orders this week.
These companies are flagged by the ICO Task Force. This unit is created to investigate potentially fraudulent activity. In the case of these four companies, there are some serious concerns to take into account. Bitcoin Investments guarantees daily returns to investors. Pinkdate offers dividends to investors without filing with the correct authorities. For Prisma, the situation is a bit different. Investors can earn hefty returns due to the company’s lending and arbitraging model. Last but not least, Clear Shop Vision is a serial ICO company. They have organized three different funding rounds throughout the second half of 2018. This is considered an unregistered securities offering and is thus subject to additional scrutiny.

The ICO Industry Needs More Scrutiny
The action undertaken in Colorado is an important step. Weeding out the potentially nefarious projects from the ICO industry needs to be the top priority. Even though there is more work to be done, efforts like these show a proactive approach is warranted. A cease and desist can ensure no investors lose money in the process.
The lack of nationwide initial coin offering regulation remains a problem. In the United States, no domestic crypto regulation exists. As such, individual states often draft their own laws and guidelines. That makes it somewhat complicated for genuine companies to operate. Moreover, it allows for ICOs like these to almost slip through the mazes of the net.
Until such regulatory measures go into effect, efforts like these will continue to make headlines. Clamping down on fraudulent investment schemes is vital. Bringing more legitimacy to this industry is very difficult. Even legitimate projects often struggle to develop working products and services. Despite the number of scams, the overall funding of ICOs remains relatively high.
Do you think Colorado’s Division of Securities was correct in issuing the cease and desist orders? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of ShutterStock
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Security Token Offerings (STO) Platform iSTOX Receives ‘Key Investments’ from SGX, Temasek

Singapore Stock Exchange and the government-owned Temasek have invested in a blockchain platform that will connect investors with firms offering security tokens.

ICHX Tech Secures Funding for New Platform
ICHX Tech, a Singapore based blockchain infrastructure company has announced investments from the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) and Heliconia Capital Management, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.
The announcement was made earlier on Thursday by ICHX on its website. ICHX is being incubated by leading Singapore investment firm ICH Group.
The funds have been raised for iSTOX, a capital markets platform that aims to become the first regulated platform in Asia to offer issuance and trading of security tokens.
Speaking about this latest development, Danny Toe, Chief Executive Officer at ICHX Tech, said:
iSTOX presents a more flexible, inclusive and efficient platform that we believe will greatly benefit both companies looking to raise capital and investors seeking bespoke investment opportunities. […] In this way, we aim to offer a future-ready platform for capital fundraising which offers substantial benefits to complement existing capital market mechanisms.
SGX Executive Vice President and Head of Equities & Fixed Income, Chew Sutat, offered his thoughts as well:
As capital markets evolve, companies will seek new funding avenues that suit their different stages of growth and business needs. To advance Singapore’s position as a world-class financial hub, we need innovative solutions that push boundaries and set new benchmarks. We believe this new platform by iSTOX will add to the vibrancy of Singapore’s capital market ecosystem, providing more options for issuers and investors alike.

iSTOX, A Regulated Platform
ICHX is working towards obtaining a license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to become a recognized operator. According to the firm, iSTOX will go live once the required approvals come through.
The platform will connect investors with investment opportunities in the form of security tokens that comply with the local laws.
STOs are financial securities backed by underlying assets like shares in a company, debt, commodities or future profits of a company and enable fractional ownership of assets. Security tokens also allow issuing firms to reach more and diversified investors.
iSTOX also plans to give holders of STOs access to liquidity via a secondary trading platform. The firm clarified that iSTOX is not a cryptocurrency exchange as all STOs will be bought and sold using fiat currency.
Mr. Chua Kim Leng, former Special Advisor (Financial Supervision) and Assistant Managing Director at MAS, said:
I see great potential for a blockchain-based platform that is well regulated and supervised. It not only enhances efficiency and creates new investment and fundraising opportunities, but also provides users with greater assurance and confidence in using the platform.
Singapore has emerged as a popular destination for ICOs and blockchain firms due to its crypto-friendly government and clarity in laws. Live Bitcoin News had reported earlier about Temasek also investing in the fiat-to-crypto exchange being established by Binance.
What are your thoughts on regulated STO platforms like iSTOX? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock
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IBM and Seagate to Create Blockchain-Based Tracking Solution for Hard Drives

The leading technology firm will work with the data storage company to put hard drive information on the blockchain to fight the counterfeit market.

IBM and Seagate Join Hands
The US-based IT giant, International Business Machines (IBM), has announced a partnership with Seagate, a leading data storage company to build a blockchain-powered system that will help identify counterfeit hard drives.
The development which was reported by ZDNet will help Seagate in traceability and authentication of hard drives.
IBM’s existing blockchain platform and the security technology from Seagate will be used to build a solution that will help in addressing the issue of counterfeit devices.
The solution will also improve security and compliance for the firm’s customer organizations that use the hard drives.
The Issue
As pointed out by both firms, a critical problem that electronics manufacturers face is the threat of fake components in the supply chain. Identifying counterfeit parts, it is reported, is difficult due to lack of information from OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
Apparently, OEMs are reluctant to share data about the supplied parts. Blockchains can record transaction details which cannot be tampered with on their distributed ledgers and potentially improve the transparency and traceability in the supply chain.

System Architecture
IBM’s blockchain platform and Seagate’s advanced electronic fingerprinting and product tracking will be applied to the hard drive lifecycle.
Data generated at the point of manufacture by Seagate Secure Electronic ID (eID) will be recorded on the IBM’s blockchain platform.
Also, a digital certificate of data purge which is electronically signed by the device under Seagate’s public key infrastructure will be stored on the blockchain. The firm’s cryptographic erasure technology will be used to generate digital certificates.
“The ability to work with Seagate to combine blockchain with advanced cryptographic product identification technology is what sets this work apart, and signals blockchain’s potential to reimagine the electronics product lifecycle management processes,” said Bruce Anderson, global managing director, electronics industry, IBM.
Anderson added:
Counterfeit electronics components are a global issue that requires an ecosystem-wide effort to address.
IBM is working with multiple clients in sectors like shipping, food, and banking to apply blockchain technology in their supply chain scenarios. Live Bitcoin News had earlier reported about Walmart’s decision to use IBM’s blockchain solution for food traceability.
What are your thoughts on the use of blockchains for supply chain tracking in the electronics industry? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of ShutterStock and AdobeStock
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SEC Beams Searchlight on Cryptocurrency Exchanges in the United States

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says it isn’t going to be swayed by technical definitions when it comes to its oversight of cryptocurrency exchange platforms. This pronouncement comes barely a day after the Commission brought up charges against the founder of EtherDelta – a decentralized virtual currency trading platform.

Centralized/Decentralized Exchanges – Semantics and Nothing More
If you thought running a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange (DEX) exempted you from SEC oversight, think again. As far as the Commission is concerned, the issue of centralized and decentralized exchanges is simply semantics.
Speaking to Forbes, the head of the SEC’s cyber unit, Robert Cohen, said:
The focus is not on the label you put on something or the technology you’re using. The leveled is on the function, and what the platform is doing. Whether it’s decentralized or not, whether it’s on a smart contract or not, what matters is it’s an exchange.
Cohen’s statements refer to decentralized or blockchain-based cryptocurrency exchanges and ensuring that they comply with existing regulations. For the SEC, the crux of the matter revolves around operating unregistered exchanges.

Operators Remain Responsible
Presently, it appears that the SEC plans to go after the operators of these DEX platforms. Take EtherDelta, for example, the charges were leveled against the creator, Zachary Coburn, and not the exchange itself.
This move is perhaps because it is much easier to target the operators than to shut down a decentralized platform. However, such a tactic might prove potentially problematic when dealing with highly anonymous DEX platform operators.

In the case of Coburn and EtherDelta, the SEC charged Coburn of running an unregistered exchange that traded securities. While not admitting or denying the charges, the Commission says Coburn is being cooperative and has agreed to pay a total of $383,000 in various fines and penalties.
SEC Pursuing All-inclusive Cryptocurrency Regulatory Paradigm
The inclusion of DEX platforms is further proof of the SEC’s drive to bring some sanity in what some commentators have dubbed the cryptocurrency ‘Wild West.’ Recently, the Commission announced its intention to critically examine the activities of investment advisers in the virtual currency trading space.
Earlier in the week, Live Bitcoin News reported about the SEC wanting to make the fight against digital currency scams its top priority. Since the beginning of 2018, the regulatory watchdog has taken numerous steps to curtail ICO scams.
What do you think about the comprehensive approach to regulating cryptocurrency exchanges being adopted by the SEC? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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France Mulls Lowering Taxes on Bitcoin

France appears ready to consider giving Bitcoin owners in the country a tax cut. This move comes as regulators in the country wish to streamline all non-real estate-related tax requirements.

Tax Cut for Bitcoin ‘Hodlers’
According to Reuters, the lower House of Parliament in France is looking to cut taxes for Bitcoin owners. On Wednesday (November 7, 2018), the House’s Finance Commission adopted a reduction of the capital gain taxes on the sale of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. This move formed part of the Commission’s amendment to the country’s 2019 budget bill.
Based on this development the capital gains tax on cryptocurrency sales will drop from 36.2 percent to 30 percent. Thus, Bitcoin and other digital currencies will now be in the same tax bracket as other non-real estate assets.
The new tax provision hasn’t been passed into law. For now, it is merely a part of the amended 2019 budget bill. If the bill is passed into law, then the new tax percentage for cryptocurrencies in France becomes legally binding.
Apart from Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrency exchanges, taxation is another cardinal aspect of virtual currency regulation for many countries. However, not many have been able to create a clear regulatory framework for cryptocurrency taxes.

France’s approach mirrors that adopted by South Africa earlier in the year. In April, Live Bitcoin News reported that the South African Reserve Service (SARS) – the country’s tax body, was going to apply standard income tax rules to cryptocurrencies.
For some countries, the problem with creating clear-cut rules for taxing digital currencies comes from a lack of consensus on the precise definition of the asset class. The United States, for example, has seen several stakeholders call for more concise cryptocurrency tax laws.
France Expanding its Cryptocurrency Regulatory Framework
If the Bitcoin tax cut becomes law, it will be yet another step by French authorities to improve the regulatory landscape of the country’s cryptocurrency industry. In September 2018, Bruno Lemaire, the French Minister of Economy and Finance announced the approval of a legislative framework to govern ICOs in the country.
The ICO laws majorly focused on investor protection protocols and came shortly after regulators in the EU called for a unified virtual currency regulatory paradigm for the region. So far, it seems France’s attitude towards cryptocurrency has softened somewhat since the start of 2018.
What do you think about France’s move to cut Bitcoin taxes? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Image courtesy of ShutterStock.

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Bullish on Blockchain: JP Morgan Lists Three Companies with the Potential to Deliver Blockchain Services

JP Morgan has listed three companies it believes are ideally positioned to deliver blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) to potential investors.

Full Faith in the Technology
The Wall Street bank is one financial institution that is embracing the blockchain.
Through its Interbank Information Network (IIN), JP Morgan is aiming to streamline the firm’s global payments process by reducing delays. In September, it was reported that the bank had attracted 76 banks to join its blockchain-based financial application.
Now, in its continued enthusiasm for the technology, it has listed three companies it believes will deliver blockchain-as-a-service to potential investors, reports CNBC.
In a note to clients, Sterling Auty, JP Morgan software equity research analyst, said:
Investors should be looking to identify where the opportunity to replace a middleman is the biggest, or where trust is needed where none exists, or what companies are the best positioned to offer blockchain as a service.
Notably, the three public companies are Akamai, a cloud service provider, DocuSign, which provides electronic signature technology, and Ellie Mae, a software company that processes mortgage applications.

According to JP Morgan, Akamai has an “overweight” rating that has the potential for a BaaS solution.
Auty stated:
While there are a number of companies that have blockchain technology, IBM as one example, we believe the sizeable Akamai network is an inherent advantage in running a distributed ledger in blockchain.
DocuSign was also rated as “overweight.” It was noted for its ability to leverage both private and public blockchains. Auty noted that the platform could shift from a centralized security model to a decentralized one. Regarding Ellie Mae, JP Morgan rated this as “underweight.” In Auty’s opinion, real estate is the most “obvious” use case for the technology.
Auty said:
Utilizing blockchain to manage the entire mortgage process could bring trust among parties and use of smart contracts could help automate various tasks (inspection, income/employment verification).
These companies certainly have the potential to deliver. Not only that, but they are well-known too, which will certainly help if they decide to embrace the blockchain. However, it remains to be seen whether they will utilize the technology to bring about a change while also providing exposure to investors in the long-term.
Yet, the fact that JP Morgan has highlighted which companies have the ability to create disruption should give them something to think about.
What do you think? Do you think these companies will be winners in the long-term? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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These Three Companies Have Potential to Deliver Blockchain Services, Says JPMorgan

JPMorgan has listed three companies it believes are ideally positioned to deliver blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) to potential investors.

Full Faith in the Technology
The Wall Street bank is one finance institution that is embracing the blockchain.
Through its Interbank Information Network (IIN), JPMorgan is aiming to streamline the firm’s global payments process by reducing delays. In September, it was reported that the bank had attracted 76 banks to join its blockchain-based financial application.
Now, in its continued enthusiasm for the technology, it has listed three companies it believes will deliver blockchain-as-a-service to potential investors, reports CNBC.
In a note to clients, Sterling Auty, JPMorgan software equity research analyst, said:
Investors should be looking to identify where the opportunity to replace a middleman is the biggest, or where trust is needed where none exists, or what companies are the best positioned to offer blockchain as a service.
Notably, the three public companies are Akamai, a cloud service provider, DocuSign, which provides electronic signature technology, and Ellie Mae, a software company that processes mortgage applications.

According to JPMorgan, Akamai has an “overweight” rating that has the potential for a BaaS solution.
Auty stated:
While there are a number of companies that have blockchain technology, IBM as one example, we believe the sizeable Akamai network is an inherent advantage in running a distributed ledger in blockchain.
DocuSign was also rated as “overweight.” It was noted for its ability to leverage both private and public blockchains. Auty noted that the platform could shift from a centralized security model to a decentralized one. Regarding Ellie Mae, JPMorgan rated this as “underweight.” In Auty’s opinion, real estate is the most “obvious” use case for the technology.
Auty said:
Utilizing blockchain to manage the entire mortgage process could bring trust among parties and use of smart contracts could help automate various tasks (inspection, income/employment verification).
These companies certainly have the potential to deliver. Not only that, but they are well-known too, which will certainly help if they decide to embrace the blockchain. However, it remains to be seen whether they will utilize the technology to bring about a change while also providing exposure to investors in the long-term.
Yet, the fact that JPMorgan has highlighted which companies have the ability to create disruption should give them something to think about.
What do you think? Do you think these companies will be winners in the long-term? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
The post These Three Companies Have Potential to Deliver Blockchain Services, Says JPMorgan appeared first on Live Bitcoin News.

President Heine Believes China and Not Crypto Is Behind Her Vote of No Confidence in the Marshall Islands

President Heine of the Marshall Islands believes that cryptocurrencies aren’t the reason for her upcoming vote of no confidence, Chinese interference is.

Usually, when you put ‘crypto’ and ‘China’ in the same sentence, it’s not going to result in anything good. This seems to be the case for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and its president, Hilda Heine.
Live Bitcoin News recently reported that Heine will be subjected to a vote of no confidence come the 12th of November. This comes after eight senators accused Heine of tarnishing the reputation of the RMI with her proposed introduction of a state-backed virtual currency, the Sovereign (SOV).

Threat to Independence
However, according to The Guardian, Heine has now broken her silence and has said the vote has nothing to do with cryptocurrencies and more to do with Chinese interference.
It is reported that the remote coral atoll of Rongelap in the RMI has hopes of becoming a hub for foreign investors. In fact, the mayor of the atoll, James Matayoshi, attended the Asia World Expo in April to discuss plans for the redevelopment of the atoll, which was previously used as a nuclear testing site for the U.S. when the RMI was still under administration by the country.
The atoll was advertised as offering tax incentives and having a tax-free port. In addition, the 61 islets would be exempt from certain RMI laws which could potentially result in an increased risk for money laundering. Heine believes that these Chinese investors want to turn to Rongelap into a “country within our own country”. She added that some of her opponents were affiliated with some of these investors.
She stressed the importance of holding onto the RMI’s independence:
We have to be cautious knowing what the geopolitical situation is in the Pacific region. I think it’s important for the government to do its own due diligence and make sure that the sovereignty of the Pacific is secure.

Heine Feeling Confident
She also touched on the need to not be easily influenced:
We are a small country and it is easy for foreign elements to influence individual people, and so I think that the more education and information that we share with the public the better so we can see initiatives for what they are.
With Monday’s vote looming, Heine appears to be confident of the result:
If you were to take a poll today, my guess is that over 60% of the Marshallese [parliament] would come out against the vote of no confidence, because they know it is baseless.
If Heine survives the vote, it stands to reason that she will continue in her efforts to launch the SOV, which her government hopes will be used in tandem with the U.S. dollar as legal tender in the RMI.
Do you think the Rongelap development is the main reason for the vote? Do you think that the SOV will damage the RMI’s global reputation? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of ShutterStock.
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