vendredi 23 août 2019

The New Bitcoin Banks Are Here

Securitize gets approval from SEC to become first crypto securities record-keeper

San Fransico-based digital securities issuing platform Securitize became the first “blockchain-focused agent” to get SEC approval.  The company said this will enable the company to be an official keeper of records for all digital securities registered with the SEC, positioning it as a one-stop digital securities service provider, said the company to CryptoSlate.

Securitize receives SEC approval to record stock transfers

A Coinbase-backed tech startup has received the approval of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to act as an official record keeper for all registered digital securities. Securitize announced the news in a press release shared with CryptoSlate, saying it has become the first blockchain-focused agent to receive SEC approval.

The company, which operates a platform for issuing and managing compliant digital securities on a blockchain, said the SEC certificate will enable it to trade these securities on SEC-registered alternative trading systems (ATS), including Open Finance Network, tZERO, and Sharespost.

Being a registered transfer agent, Securitize will keep a real-time cap table of a firm’s investors. The company will also be able to offer corporate services to securities issuers, including the payment of dividends and interest, conducting shareholder votes, and facilitating share buybacks.

Increased security and transparency

Securitize becoming a registered transfer agent will help bring more transparency into the space. The SEC has been waging a war against crypto and blockchain companies who have failed to register their digital tokens as securities, filing several lawsuits and issuing an ever-growing number of fines in the past two years.

Increased regulatory pressure created a perfect space for Securitize to position itself. Carlos Domingo, the co-founder and CEO of the company, said Securitize is dedicated to delivering compliant digital securities on the blockchain.

“Becoming a registered transfer agent is the natural next step for Securitize as we continue to work toward making all securities digital,” he said in the company’s press release.

The company’s transfer verification tool (TVT) will allow investors to conduct background checks on digital security token, powered by its “DS protocol,” bringing more transparency and legitimacy to the space, he claims.

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Evolving decentralization in a world let down by centralization

In the past few years, there has been this bubbling discontent against centralized figures in our lives, especially in our digital lives. We have had to bow down to the rules of banks, social media sites, even governments and authorities as there have been no other alternatives.

This lack of competition had also driven the central authorities to get greedy and complacent, which has led to several notable failures in their authoritarian control. Facebook data scandals, banking collapses, political failures; all these occurrences have lead people to lose faith in centralized authority.

Yet, there has been very little that the collective has been able to do about it. The notion of decentralization has pretty much been theoretical with not too many concrete examples of how one can escape the centralized monopoly that has been constructed. But things are changing.

Blockchain has been steadily establishing itself as a technology of the future but also as a foundational tool for today. It brings with it a functional decentralization that people are starting to see work in different sectors. Bank-less Bitcoin showed people that finance need not be totally ruled by the bank, but that is just the beginning.

Why do we want decentralization?

We can understand why people are less trusting of central authorities. Especially when looking at banks, governments, and even corporations like Google, Facebook, and others; there have been a slew of bad press around the way they are operating.

The alternative is to disseminate the power in these sectors and have decentralized control where the need for trust in one entity is removed and a trustless system put in its place. Decentralization can do this, in many different sectors, and it can do it with an efficiency that is unheard of in a world of centralized authority.

We have seen how Bitcoin can essentially remove banks; take away their fees, waiting times, overly-severe restraints and regulations, and replace it with trustless peer-to-peer trading. We are also starting to see how any contract, financial or not, can be enacted through smart contracts without the need of central authorities – supply chain as a prime example.

And, the reason we see these alternatives is because of what has happened before. It must be remembered that Bitcoin, blockchain, and this notion of decentralized finance, in this case, came about because of the 2008 financial crisis and the failure of the centralized banking system to do its job.

In more recent times, instead of seeing our money being the victim of poor centralized control, we are seeing our data being exploited and badly used. Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and a bevy of other internet companies have been embroiled with scandals relating to the control and use of people’s data. These people are now sick of it and want a new way of operating.

It is an arduous task, creating a decentralized architecture based on blockchain technology, but one that ICON is attempting to summit. It is not only about being financially decentralized through Bitcoin, but it is also about trying to create an entire decentralized network of different blockchain communities and sectors for a new era of decentralization to come to fruition.

Why ICON took this path

ICON has decided to try to create this blockchain architecture in a way that further forces more significant decentralization and community involvement. If blockchain is the answer to a decentralized society, it is still in its embryonic stages and needs a boost towards a new heading.

Blockchain decentralization can be a relatively insular and isolated undertaking as it stands, with proof-of-work a race to get the next block rather than active involvement in a community. It is this reason why ICON has gone with Delegated Proof-of-Contribution (DPoC) to allow for member evaluation based on their network contribution as well as stake.

This further leads to one of its most important roles, the P-Rep, or Public Representatives.

P-Reps operate as full nodes and form the basis of a sustainable and secure network. They get to produce blocks and verify transactions on the ICON Network, but their role is even more extensive than that — acting as the principal delegates of the decentralized governance system, P-Reps are responsible for controlling, protecting, and enhancing the ICON Network.

Having these P-Reps in the network hands the control of the blockchain architecture to the people who are using it, they are incentivized to advance the network. But, to further incentivize the network and ensure complete decentralization, all ICON network participants – not only the main P-Reps but also sub P-Reps, ICX holders, developers, and more – are rewarded according to their contributions

It is through this avenue that ICON hopes it can create a fully decentralized blockchain architecture, and that it can advance blockchain decentralization to its full potential.

Currently, the possibility is there with blockchain, but because of other factors, decentralization is usually a front. ASIC mining hardware can lead to a monopoly in proof-of-work, and poor distribution of tokens can cause centralization in proof-of-stake.

But, with decentralization at its core, with a voting system aiming to include all corners of the ICON network, and P-Reps set to be fairly chosen, the network should obtain a far higher degree of decentralization than has been seen in these early stages of blockchain development.

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jeudi 22 août 2019

Libra getting examined in antitrust probe by EU’s executive body

Facebook’s bold “new global currency,” Libra, was hit by an antitrust probe from regulators in the European Union because it could unfairly dominate the market, according to a document seen exclusively by Bloomberg.

The Executive Commission of the EU is studying Libra to see if it could breach anti-competition laws. Considering Facebook’s historic use of consumer data and how it exchanges information, scrutiny of Libra mirrors concerns recently voiced by top officials and financial institutions across Europe, said Bloomberg.

Libra Association under scrutiny

The report Bloomberg examined did not disclose many specific concerns held by the EU’s top branch, but did say they revolve around the “governance structure and membership” of the Libra Association, the Switzerland-based non-profit that governs the prospective digital currency.

Regulators, industry experts, and the general public have not hidden their skepticism for what privacy protections Facebook affords consumers, especially after scandals including Cambridge Analytica, among several others.

Now, Libra could appear as the most powerful monopoly on consumer data to date, seeming to some as an attempt by the social media platform to seize power over not only over people’s social networks but the monetary system at large.

Corporate giants such as Uber, Vodafone, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Naspers, and Stripe are included as founding members of the Libra Association, and per the Libra whitepaper will be directly involved in the network’s upkeep as node operators. Yet, Congress and the Senate both have concerns that Facebook will have de facto control over the association.

Can Facebook be trusted?

Facebook has attempted to soothe concerns that Libra will outmuscle competition or violate privacy, saying the network will decentralize after five years. Many experts, however, disagree with this, stating the Libra Association will have significant access to information and data as it builds its own global central bank—arguing that it’s unlikely that the corporations involved will give up this power.

The probe comes as the latest pothole in Libra’s evidently bumpy road to regulatory approval, with Facebook having told investors in July the plan may be scrapped if it can’t get clearance from policymakers.

Nonetheless, the firm has voiced its intention to work with lawmakers internationally to gain approval. Facebook is currently hiring a public policy manager in London to “focus on Europe and MENA on a team working on payments and blockchain regulatory policy development.” It seems the social media giant will need all the lobbying help it can get.

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Three drug lords have their Bitcoin and Litecoin addresses blacklisted by US Treasury

OFAC and FinCEN announced a coordinated effort to sanction three Chinese nationals for an international drug trafficking operation with profits laundered via Bitcoin and Litecoin.

The culprits, identified as Xiaobing Yan, Fujing Zheng, and Guanghua Zheng, were accused of manufacturing and distributing lethal narcotics. These drugs contributed directly to the opioid crisis in the United States, said Sigal Mandelker, under secretary for the Terrorism and Financial Intelligence division.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) ordered a freeze to any property belonging to the criminal organization as well as a number of Bitcoin and Litecoin addresses. The traffickers were added to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list per the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, giving the U.S. Treasury broad powers to sanction the individuals.

Xiaobing Yan 12QtD5BFwRsdNsAZY76UVE1xyCGNTojH9h 1Kuf2Rd8mDyAViwBozGTNYnvWL8uYFrkVo 13f59kUM5FU8MfTG7DCEugYarDhSD7XCoC 1P3ZfGFLezzYGg9k5SVzQmnjyh7nrUmF2y 1EpMiZkQVekM5ij12nMiEwttFPcDK9XhX6 1JREJdZupiFhE7ZzQPtASuMCvvpXC7wRsC
Fujing Zheng 17ezuJoT3XBbdcwFZbkTnrXbup11F4uhiy 1DH2xDH7TngrDU6LXciprKCBKNcPA1xX8A
Guanghua Zheng 33Kja69SQVc8kozpoP7Qw6HFtGxHkiWzTz 3MkUNScqf21EcfWq6T4x2MFgBeSTqhB5t6 18uKfaUjgG52rVeXEi3wxnveww7zZuECtE LaizKtS5DUhPuP1nTQcc83MS7HwK6vk85z

As part of the sanctions, an advisory alert was issued to financial institutions around the globe to help detect and report criminal activity in the future. Here, the United States and the Department of Treasury can leverage their broad powers over the global financial system.

“We are making the financial sector aware of tactics and typologies behind illicit schemes to launder the proceeds of these fatal drug sales, including transactions using digital currency and foreign bank accounts,” said FinCEN director Kenneth Blanco. 

“Financial institutions must be on alert to red flags and other indicators of the complex schemes [drug] traffickers are employing so that financial institutions can report and share relevant information with law enforcement, and ultimately help save lives,” he continued.

This is not the first time the Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) added cryptocurrency addresses to its sanctions list. The agency took action against two Iran-based individuals, who helped exchange Bitcoin ransom payments into Iranian rial, back in November 2018. The Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklisted two Bitcoin addresses that had processed over 7,000 transactions, worth millions of dollars. 

Governments will implement greater controls on BTC as concern around cryptocurrency’s use for illicit activity intensifies. As exemplified by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the department will police Bitcoin and other coins with “very, very strong” regulations. As summarized in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box, Mnuchin asserted:

“We’re going to make sure that Bitcoin does not become the equivalent of Swiss-numbered bank accounts, which were obviously a risk to the financial system.”

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Cardano’s venture arm partners with Korean trade associations to drive adoption

Cardano’s official commercial and venture arm, Emurgo, signed a memorandum of understanding with two government-approved trade associations in Korea. The partnerships will focus on implementing Cardano for Korean digital content and mobile gaming.

Emurgo enters the Korean market

Cardano adoption continues to grow in Asia. The company’s official partner and commercial arm, Emurgo, partnered with two trade associations in Korea. According to an Aug. 20 press release, Emurgo formally signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korea Blockchain Contents Association (KBCCA) and the Korea Mobile Game Association (KMGA), both of which are approved by the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT.

The partnership will bring the companies together and help them develop Cardano’s blockchain-based solutions. Emurgo will work on integrating Cardano into the digital content and mobile gaming industries, two of the fastest-growing sectors in Korea.

Ken Kodama, the CEO of Emurgo, said that mobile gaming was a lucrative industry with a huge potential for blockchain implementation.

Korea’s gaming craze a perfect environment for blockchain

Considering that Korea has the highest smartphone penetration and mobile gaming rates in the world, the country is the perfect tech-savvy environment for driving blockchain-related adoption.

The high rate of smartphone ownership (9 out of 10 South Koreans own a smartphone) has made South Korea one of the biggest consumers of online content. An eMarketer study found that Korean adult consumers spend more than half of their time online on digital content platforms.

In combination with mature technological infrastructure, Korea will be a perfect place to implement Cardano’s third-generation blockchain-based solutions, Emurgo said in its press release. Leading game development and content creation enterprises, hundreds of which are members of both KBCCA and KMGA, will be able to benefit from these solutions.

We are yet to see whether these partnerships have any major effect on Cardano’s ADA, which saw a slight price increase in the past couple of days, growing over 6 percent between Aug. 21 and Aug. 22.

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