Congress’s big tech report shows why antitrust history is so important – The Washington Post

This week, Congress released a report on big tech monopolies that makes clear what so many Americans instinctively know: A handful of powerful corporations rule over our lives and our economy. The report details the actions the four big tech platforms — Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple — have taken in gaining and preserving their monopoly power across numerous markets. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) The report’s prescription for undoing their power is just as clear: We must break them up. Alongside this essential recommendation, the report also calls for strengthening the antitrust laws and adopting new rules to ensure the dominant platforms do not exploit their power. If we fail to confront the tech monopolies head on, the report argues, we relinquish our control over the way we shop, sell and speak to one another.

Source: Congress’s big tech report shows why antitrust history is so important – The Washington Post

500 Estonian Crypto Companies Lose Permits After $220B Scandal

Estonia, one of the European Union’s most crypto-friendly countries, is cracking down on hundreds of licensed crypto companies in response to a $220 billion money laundering scandal, according to Bloomberg. Estonia was among the first EU countries to license crypto companies but has been forced to clamp down after hundreds of billions of dollars of dirty money was detected in the Estonian unit of Denmark’s largest lender Danske Bank A/S. It’s put the country at the center of Europe’s biggest money laundering scandal.

Source: 500 Estonian Crypto Companies Lose Permits After $220B Scandal

Negen Nederlandse bitcoinstartups gestopt vanwege strengere regels – Emerce

Negen Nederlandse bitcoinstartups gestopt vanwege strengere regelsNiet minder dan negen Nederlandse bitcoinpartijen zijn gestopt vanwege de strengere regels voor bedrijven die cryptomunten aanbieden. Dat meldt Bitcoin Magazine.Zonder vergunning mogen bedrijven die geld omwisselen in crypto’s of wallets aanbieden sinds vorige week niet meer actief zijn in Nederland. De regels zijn ingevoerd om witwassen tegen te gaan.Transacties boven de 15.000 euro moeten worden gemeld. Daarnaast moeten bedrijven onderzoek doen naar de identiteit van hun klanten. Ook worden de bestuurders en andere betrokkenen doorgelicht.De partijen moeten de kosten voor het toezicht daarnaast zelf betalen. Per bedrijf komt dat neer op 20.000 euro.Een van de bekendere namen is Bitkassa, voortgekomen uit een bitcoininitiatief in Arnhem. Een andere bekende naam is Bittr, waar gebruikers een vast bedrag aan bitcoins konden aanschaffen via een simpele bankbetaling.Ook de Rotterdamse broker Nocks is gestopt. De software is overigens al verkocht.Coingarden uit Utrecht noemt de ‘te hoge kosten’ als voornaamste reden om te stoppen. De oprichters gaan door met goudbroker Bitgild.Post-a-coin, een giftcarddienst van Bèr Kessels, valt eveneens onder de wet, net als de miningpool Simplecoin, bitcoin gamingplatform Chopcoin en BitZeb. Een negende startup Bitqist is reeds overgenomen doot Bitvavo. Geen van deze startups had kennelijk voldoende financiële draagkracht.

Source: Negen Nederlandse bitcoinstartups gestopt vanwege strengere regels – Emerce

CSIRO says laws should be published in code

Commonwealth legislation should not only be published in words but in machine-readable code, which would allow it to be read not only by lawyers but also computers, a move CSIRO suggests will boost the adoption of new regulatory technology across the economy, improving compliance while reducing costs.

 

CSIRO detailed its vision for “rules as code” in a submission to the Senate select committee on financial and regulatory technology, calling for the government to think more about ‘legal informatics’, or ‘computational law’, to allow computers to help automate compliance. This would “reduce the cost of red tape and improve the quality of risk management in society,” the science agency said.

“The goal is that computer-assisted reasoning using these logics should give the same answers as judges and lawyers doing legal reasoning about the black-letter law,” CSIRO said. “When legal texts can be represented in this way, it enables the potential to build digital tools to help people to interact with the law.”

The banking industry – which has faced soaring compliance costs in the wake of the Hayne royal commission – has been wary about adopting new technologies in compliance. This has been due to the complexity of regulation, a reluctance by regulators to endorse a specific technological approach, and heavy sanctions for failures. This was evidenced by AUSTRAC’s legal actions for anti-money laundering failures at Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, which both related to failures in technology systems.

The big banks want Treasury to encourage the financial sector regulators ASIC, APRA and the Reserve Bank, “to make regtech a viable proposition in the financial services sector”.

Many start-ups, along with more established technology vendors, are developing new systems to help banks meet legal duties, including establishing the identity and background of customers, ensuring legal compliance, verification of income and expenses, and data privacy. Juniper Research expects global spending on regtech to rise from $US25 billion ($37 billion) 2019 to $US127 billion by 2024.

‘Rules as code’

CSIRO, which operates a digital innovation arm known as Data61, has detailed to the committee how a “rules as code” approach could lift compliance with various laws.

It is working with PwC on a joint venture called PaidRight to check employees’ entitlements under enterprise bargaining agreements against what they have actually been paid.

The banking industry and CSIRO are working on a project to develop a digital approach to organising climate change disclosure, which CSIRO said could be “a first step towards a nationally coordinated framework for delivery of climate information”.

The agency is also working with the building and construction industry to automatically check Computer Aided Design (CAD) models of buildings against the many building and construction regulations from the federal and state governments.

Publishing machine-interpretable rules alongside the text of legislation would “provide critical support for the regtech industry and potentially significant productivity benefits for regulated industries in Australia,” CSIRO said.

The Australian Banking Association called on the committee, which is being chaired by Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, to recommend that Treasury “be explicitly tasked with responsibility for a growth strategy for regtech”.

Design box thinking

The RegTech Association, which represents 110 start-ups and corporates, suggested the committee call for the creation of a COAG-style forum to introduce government departments to regtech, and is encouraging government to become an “influencer, buyer, beneficiary and investor” in the space.

In its submission, the association suggests a percentage of regulatory fines paid by banks could be invested in a new ‘patient capital’ investment fund to invest in the sector, modelled on the Australian Medical Research Future Fund. It also reckons a safe harbour, or relief program, could be created to provide reporting entities attempting to deploy regtech with more confidence to adopt changes, via amendments to ASIC’s regulatory guidance.

The association also wants government to create “design box” or “sandbox” programs to accelerate testing of new technologies. It pointed to the APIX Platform, part of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network and backed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which has created a marketplace for financial institutions to exchange ideas with fintechs on better ways of doing things.

“Australia could easily replicate this idea of a digital marketplace or partner to introduce a similar platform,” the association said.

“It could allow buyers and sellers to come together to experiment more easily, allow greater visibility over regtech solutions, help regtechs understand the current problem statements of their potential clients, and allow a ‘design box’ where negative assurance could be provided by regulators as observers. Over time the digital marketplace could also be a portal for talent and skill recruitment.”

Separately, CSIRO responded to an accusation in the submission by FinTech Australia to the inquiry which criticised Data61 for “competing directly with private enterprise for government and non-government work”. In a statement, CSIRO said it “does not seek to compete with the private sector or start-ups and where possible aims to partner with Australian organisations, to support their growth.

“Like many of CSIRO’s business units, projects for Data61, the digital innovation arm of CSIRO, are typically identified as a result of discussions with, or approaches from government, industry or academic partners, where an opportunity has been identified for our research to be applied to solve problems and create benefits for Australia.”

Source: CSIRO says laws should be published in code

The U.S. Government Tried To Shut Down Bitcoin

Bitcoin conspiracy theorists have long suspected the U.S. government, among others, would like to shut down bitcoin.Bitcoin’s first decade has seen its price explode, making early adopters overnight millionaires, and prompting some of the world’s biggest technology companies to create their own versions of bitcoin.Now, it’s been revealed federal prosecutor-turned bitcoin and cryptocurrency expert Katie Haun was asked to look into “shutting down” bitcoin by her boss at the U.S. attorney’s office in 2012.

Source: The U.S. Government Tried To Shut Down Bitcoin

Facebook’s New Currency Has Big Claims and Bad Ideas – Foreign Policy

David Marcus, the Facebook executive in charge of the project, told the press last week that the problems of banking the unbanked were technical — that banks were unable to move money fast enough without a blockchain. This is completely backward. Experts know how to move numbers on a computer. The slow part is settlement and compliance: making sure that money transmitters are solvent, honest, and not fronting for drug runners. Banking the unbanked is a slow, one-on-one social process. Libra’s public relations material describes this as if it were entirely a technical problem — and none of it is.The real motivation for the project seems to be ideological. Marcus was formerly at PayPal, and he understands payments and regulation. But he’s been a bitcoin fan since 2012 and was on the board of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in 2017.Marcus had been thinking about something like Libra for several years and had discussed the project with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg since January 2018. Zuckerberg was interested in the project and the ideas—“a high-quality medium of exchange for the world, on a blockchain that could scale,” as Marcus described it in a press conference on June 17.Facebook is under increasingly close attention from governments deeply suspicious of its track record on privacy, election manipulation, and fake information and its repeated defiance of calls to appear before elected representatives. Yet Facebook and its closest partners seem to think that they are large and powerful enough to swing a coup against the concept of government control of money. Libra directly states that its intent is “to shape a regulatory environment” —not to comply with the existing regulatory environment. Regulators will need to bend to Libra.The Libra token is a foreign exchange derivative, synthesized from a basket of national currencies. Libra wants to operate as a shadow bank, issuing Libra-denominated liabilities that are explicitly intended to function as money. Libra “will create a mirror banking system using your money,” said Carlos Maslatón, the head of treasury at the bitcoin payments provider Xapo, explaining the service in a private WhatsApp chat group.Libra seems to be particularly targeting countries with lots of Facebook users and unstable currencies—the other meaning of banking the unbanked. There are obvious money-laundering hazards. “Know your customer” (KYC) rules require anyone dealing in currency substitutes to track the sources of funds so as to cut off funding for criminals and terrorists. Libra says it will keep to the highest of KYC standards—but a Libra partner in a bad economy risks compromising the compliance of the whole Libra system, given that its intent is to move money around the world at the speed of cryptocurrencies. Libra will need to keep this tight and assure developed-world regulators that it has done so, or it will place the entire Libra system at risk.

Source: Facebook’s New Currency Has Big Claims and Bad Ideas – Foreign Policy

Blockchain Laws and Regulations | Laws and Regulations | GLI

Areas of law covered include:

1 Government attitude and definition

2 Virtual currency regulation

3 Sales regulation

4 Taxation

5 Money transmission laws and anti-money laundering requirements

6 Promotion and testing

7 Ownership and licensing requirements

8 Mining

9 Border restrictions and declaration

10 Reporting requirements

11 Estate planning and testamentary succession

The GLI to: Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Regulation 2019 covers government attitude and definition, cryptocurrency regulation, sales regulation, taxation, money transmission laws and anti-money laundering requirements, promotion and testing, ownership and licensing requirements, mining, border restrictions and more

Source: Blockchain Laws and Regulations | Laws and Regulations | GLI

Libra: US Congress asks Facebook to pause development | Technology | The Guardian

The US Congress has asked Facebook to pause development on its Libra cryptocurrency until lawmakers have had more time to investigate the ramifications of the company’s actions.In a letter from the Democratic heads of the house committee on financial services and its subcommittees, the legislators ask the company to “immediately cease implementation plans”.“Because Facebook is already in the hands of over a quarter of the world’s population, it is imperative that Facebook and its partners immediately cease implementation plans until regulators and Congress have an opportunity to examine these issues and take action,” the letter says.“During this moratorium, we intend to hold public hearings on the risks and benefits of cryptocurrency-based activities and explore legislative solutions. Failure to cease implementation before we can do so risks a new Swiss-based financial system that is too big to fail.”

Source: Libra: US Congress asks Facebook to pause development | Technology | The Guardian

Antitrust regulators may also scrutinize internet firms’ cryptocurrencies: German cartel chief – Reuters

BONN, Germany (Reuters) – Cryptocurrencies backed by big internet companies could come under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators, the head of Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said on Thursday after Facebook last week launched its own version.Central bankers and financial watchdogs were quick to raise concerns about Facebook’s planned Libra global cryptocurrency, saying that it could become so pervasive as to disrupt the global monetary policy framework.Germany’s antitrust watchdog’s president Andreas Mundt, who has pursued the world’s largest social network over other areas of its business, told reporters that cryptocurrencies launched by companies like Facebook “could become a topic for us”.Mundt has taken Facebook to task over its handling of data collected from users of the social network and its messaging apps without their consent, finding the firm founded by CEO Mark Zuckerberg abused its market dominance.

Source: Antitrust regulators may also scrutinize internet firms’ cryptocurrencies: German cartel chief – Reuters

Facebook’s Crypto Libra May Kill Launch in India, Its Biggest Market: Report | CCN Markets

The Economic Times, India’s biggest business daily, reports that Libra will not be available in India, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter:

“The social network’s digital wallet, Calibra, won’t be available in markets where “cryptocurrencies are banned or Facebook is restricted from operating in,” the person said. “Facebook has not filed any application with RBI (Reserve Bank of India) for its cryptocurrency in India,” said a second person aware of the matter. RBI did not respond to queries from ET.”

This, despite a previous report that Facebook specifically picked India as the launch market for its cryptocurrency.

 

India will be a tricky nut to crack for Facebook’s Libra

The Indian government and regulators have traditionally carried a hostile view toward cryptocurrencies, implementing a slew of measures to discourage adoption of the likes of bitcoin.

India has taken a variety of steps to stifle the growth of cryptocurrencies, fearing that bitcoin and the likes are instruments for laundering money, duping naïve investors, evading tax, and financing terrorism.

 

The government has already instructed banks to stop dealings with cryptocurrency exchanges, while the income tax department has singled out people involved in crypto transactions.

What’s more, the Indian government might put you in jail for a decade if you’re found in possession of bitcoin or other cryptos, if the draft of the country’s Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill is to be believed.

 

All of this makes it difficult for Facebook’s Libra to crack the cryptocurrency market in India. This would be a big blow for the social media giant as India is its largest market, accounting for more than 10% of its user base.

Statista estimates that Facebook has 260 million users in India out of a global user base of 2.38 billion. So missing out on this market could deal Libra a big blow as Facebook will be missing out on a huge chunk of the population that has been rapidly transitioning toward digital modes of payment.

India’s convoluted laws won’t be easy to bypass

Facebook’s crypto Libra is raising a lot of eyebrows in countries such as the US and France, where regulators are concerned about how the social media giant will keep user data safe and private. But it is an entirely different ball game in India where Facebook could face an outright ban.

According to Salman Waris, who is the managing partner at specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, Facebook could fall on the wrong side of the Reserve Bank’s norms and India’s Income Tax Act. He told ET:

“Under Section 79 of the Indian IT Act, Facebook is obligated to take ‘all due care’ to ensure its network or platform is not used for illegal activities like dealing in cryptocurrencies in India. Section 79 would apply to Facebook even though it is based out of India. Section 75 of the IT Act also gives extraterritorial jurisdiction to the law.”

Even if Facebook’s Libra is a closed system that’s used for making peer-to-peer payments on its platforms such as Messenger and WhatsApp, it could invite the wrath of the Indian government and regulators.

The establishment has tried to kill cryptocurrencies in India with a lot of zeal. So it won’t take long for the government to believe that bad actors are using Facebook Libra to launder money or finance terrorism, taking a massive market opportunity away from the social media company.