First, the third quarter saw growing awareness of perhaps the biggest clampdown on virtual asset transactions to ever impact crypto exchanges as well as banks and other financial institutions. After months to absorb its implications, these businesses are coming to grips with the fact that in just seven months they will need to comply with the so-called FATF funds Travel Rule. In a major challenge to business models and user privacy, among other changes this rule requires virtual asset service providers (VASPs) to securely transmit (and store) sender and receiver information whenever cryptocurrency moves. At the same time, US regulators emphasized that a similar Travel Rule which has long applied to fiat funds transfers—also applies to cryptocurrency transactions. This has left firms struggling to find a technical solution in time to avoid potentially severe penalties or blacklisting. It will no doubt have implications as regulators seek to have KYC information shared globally.The Blockchain Security Company
Discussions of cryptocurrencies and other blockchain technologies are bedeviled by a nearly universal assumption that attributes that are possible to achieve in theory are guaranteed to be realized in practice. Examples include decentralization and anonymity.Back in June David Gerard asked: How good a business is running a Lightning Network node? LNBig provides 49.6% ($3.7 million in bitcoins) of the Lightning Network’s total channel liquidity funding — that just sits there, locked in the channels until they’re closed. They see 300 transactions a day, for total earnings on that $3.7 million of … $20 a month. They also spent $1000 in channel-opening fees.Even if the Lightning Network worked (which it doesn’t), and were decentralized (which it isn’t), Gerard’s point was that the transaction fees were woefully inadequate to cover the costs of running a node. Now, A Cryptoeconomic Traffic Analysis of Bitcoin’s Lightning Network by the Hungarian team of Ferenc Béres, István A. Seres, and András A. Benczúr supports Gerard’s conclusion with a detailed analysis.
Areas of law covered include:
1 Government attitude and definition
2 Virtual currency regulation
3 Sales regulation
5 Money transmission laws and anti-money laundering requirements
6 Promotion and testing
7 Ownership and licensing requirements
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
“The Bank of England approaches Libra with an open mind but not an open door, said Carney. “Unlike social media for which standards and regulations are being debated well after it has been adopted by billions of users, the terms of engagement for innovations such as Libra must be adopted in advance of any launch.”Libra, if it achieves its ambitions, would be systemically important,” he went on to say, continuing: “As such it would have to meet the highest standards of prudential regulation and consumer protection. It must address issues ranging from anti-money laundering to data protection to operational resilience. Libra must also be a pro-competitive, open platform that new users can join on equal terms. In addition, authorities will need to consider carefully the implications of Libra for monetary and financial stability.”
Facebook Inc.’s ambitious plan to roll out its own cryptocurrency ran into immediate political opposition in Europe, with calls for tighter regulation of the social-media giant.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the digital currency known as Libra shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for traditional currencies.
“It is out of question’’ that Libra “become a sovereign currency,’’ Le Maire said in an interview on Europe 1 radio. “It can’t and it must not happen.”
Read more about Facebook’s cryptocurrency plan
Le Maire called on the Group of Seven central bank governors, guardians of the global monetary system, to prepare a report on Facebook’s project for their July meeting. His concerns include privacy, money laundering and terrorism finance.
Libra was also a talking point at the European Central Bank’s annual symposium in Sintra, Portugal, where Bank of England Governor Mark Carney referenced Libra. “Anything that works in this world will become instantly systemic and will have to be subject to the highest standards off regulation,” he said.
Carney’s ‘Open Mind’
While Carney said “we need to have an open mind” about technology that can facilitate cross-border money transfers, “we will look at it very closely and in a coordinated fashion” at multilateral organizations including the G-7, the International Monetary Fund, Bank for International Settlements and Financial Stability Board.
Meanwhile, Markus Ferber, a German member of the European Parliament, said Facebook, with more than 2 billion users, could become a “shadow bank” and that regulators should be on high alert.
Facebook is developing Libra, a stablecoin designed to avoid the volatility of Bitcoin and thus be useful for commerce, in partnership with some of the biggest names in payments and technology, such as Visa Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. The new currency, which will launch as soon as next year, is pegged to a basket of government-backed currencies and securities.
While Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has attracted a lot of attention since its creation a decade ago, it’s still not widely used beyond market speculation. Facebook meanwhile, plans to build a new digital wallet that will exist in its Messenger and WhatsApp services to make it easy for people to send money to friends, family and businesses through the apps.
“This money will allow this company to assemble even more data, which only increases our determination to regulate the internet giants,” Le Maire said in parliament.
At TILTing 2019 the Lab presented a study on the legal instruments that are, as of today, applicable to blockchain-based digital assets under European law, and the relative enforcement challenges. The broader question to be tackled is whether and how regulators deal with such challenges, and what are the interests at stake. http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2019/05/tilting-perspectives-2019-report-2.html
When Satoshi Nakamoto designed the Bitcoin protocol, he had the insight to include the notion of transaction fees. These fees incentivized miners to include transactions into blocks. But initially, Bitcoin did not have, in any meaningful sense, a fee market.A large portion of early Bitcoin transactions were completely free up until 2013 (blue in the above chart). Wallet developers eventually hard-coded tiny fixed fees into their clients, thought of as donations to miners. At first these fees defaulted to 0.1 BTC, but they were driven down as the Bitcoin price rose.
“If you bribe 51 percent of the miners, they will change the ledger for you. [This] tells you just how little irreversibility there is in PoW coins,” tweeted Cornell University professor and researcher in blockchain consensus protocols Emin Gün Sirer.A 51% attack on the blockchain network is not a new attack vector for PoW blockchains. However, as highlighted by Gün Sirer, it’s also not really an attack vector. On very special instances, the majority of self-interested miners on PoW blockchains have voluntarily agreed to alter a transaction history to undo critical situations.While the situation isn’t entirely the same, in the past, blockchain networks have seen their histories altered in the wake of critical moments. This happened on the ethereum blockchain back in 2016 when over $60 million worth of coins were siphoned off from the now-defunct smart contract The DAO. It also happened on the vericoin blockchain back in 2014 after $8 million worth of coins were hacked.While controversial, both decisions were supported by the primary developer community who launched system-wide upgrades or hard forks to enable otherwise infeasible amendments to the blockchain transaction history.Yet those choices weren’t without their repercussions; the resulting ethereum fork resulted in two distinct chains, ethereum and ethereum classic, respectively.A resounding noStill, many in the bitcoin community took to social media to deride the idea as both infeasible as well against the philosophical underpinnings of the technology.In Binance’s particular case, prominent members of the bitcoin community point out that bitcoin being the world’s largest blockchain is a particularly unique case with a reputation to uphold.“Talk of forking or reorganizing the blockchain is close to heresy,” tweeted billionaire bitcoin investor Michael Novogratz. “When the ethereum community did it the project was like 5 months old. A baby. Bitcoin now has $100bn market cap and is a legitimate store of wealth.”It would also be unfair according to Adam Back – CEO of bitcoin development startup Blockstream – given that the latest Binance hack is nowhere near as severe as previous hacks suffered on the bitcoin blockchain.“A Bitcoin reorg is just not happening, and I doubt any Bitcoin industry, miners nor developers considered it either. Recall 2014 $473mil, 2016 bitfinex hack $72mil, 2019 binance $40mil etc. #NotHappening,” tweeted Back.
An ethereum protocol for programmatic lending, MakerDAO emerged as a clear market leader in part for its rock-bottom interest rates of 0.5 percent.But the code behind MakerDAO requires interest rates to do more than extract business from borrowers, it’s a technological necessity for keeping its DAI stablecoin worth $1.With interest rates rising to 19.5 percent, and DAI still worth below $1, some early borrowers are angry, feeling as though they were misled.Describing the project’s marketing tactics as akin to digital “loan sharks,” they argue their experience with decentralized finance has been worse than with traditional banking.
If Facebook’s pivot from town square to private living room wasn’t laden with enough irony, here’s a new twist: Big business, it appears, has been invited to join us by the fireplace.
Gregory Barber covers cryptocurrency, blockchain, and artificial intelligence for WIRED.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported new potential details about Facebook’s long-awaited cryptocurrency plans. The company is reportedly seeking dozens of business partners, including online merchants and financial firms, in an effort to extend the reach of its blockchain-based marketplace. Facebook’s would-be partners are being asked to pitch into an investment fund, valued at $1 billion or more, that would serve as backing for Facebook’s coin and mitigate the wild speculative swings that make cryptocurrencies like bitcoin hard to spend. The pitch, according to the Journal, involves offering merchants lower fees than credit cards.
Some were quick to note that this would reduce Facebook’s ability to make money from payments in the short term. But that may not matter much—if, in the end, Facebook’s crypto effort is really all about getting you to spend more time glued to Facebook.
Facebook appears to be already building out the plumbing to make its marketplace a reality. At its F8 developer conference this week, the word “blockchain” was notably absent. But even as Zuckerberg emphasized the company’s plan to reorganize your Facebook experience around intimate relationships, his update included plenty of ways money would be involved. “I believe that it should be as easy to send money to someone as it is to send a photo,” he said, alluding to “simple and secure payments” as a core feature of his privacy-forward vision. That apparently extends beyond the peer-to-peer payments available on Venmo and Facebook’s own Messenger app. In a series of keynotes, Facebook execs touted a litany of commerce-focused improvements: better checkout for Instagram’s digital mall, donation stickers, and a new tool for small business owners to list items on WhatsApp.
Indeed, WhatsApp appears to sit at the center of Facebook’s commerce efforts—at least to start. At F8, Facebook said WhatsApp Pay, currently on limited trial in India, would expand to additional, unnamed countries later this year. The platform isn’t blockchain-based (for now) and is designed for peer-to-peer payments. But with 80 percent of small businesses in India using WhatsApp to market their goods, some form of payments processing is a natural evolution. In December, Bloomberg reported that the first tests of the crypto coin may occur in India, initially as a way for workers to send money home from overseas.
An added twist from the Journal’s report is the possibility that the coin will be integrated into Facebook’s lucrative ads ecosystem. The scheme, reportedly still under debate within Facebook, would potentially work on both sides of the ads equation: Merchants could use the coins to pay for ads, and users would be rewarded in coins for viewing or interacting with them. That reflects a growing perception—seen recently in efforts like the Brave browser, which compensates users through a token for clicking on ads—that people should get paid for their attention, not simply help internet giants make money. For Facebook, it also presents a vision of how its ads and eyeballs-driven business could continue in the company’s supposedly privacy-first era. The idea is to keep Facebook’s coins—and therefore users—tightly enmeshed in the platform.
The WIRED Guide to the Blockchain
“I don’t believe they’re doing anything that isn’t in the service of increasing interactions on their platforms,” says Joshua Gans, a professor at the University of Toronto. Sending money to businesses presents a challenge, he notes. Compared with friends and family, businesses are more likely to dump their Facebook coins at the end of the month in favor of real money. Gans is skeptical that Facebook would pay users for viewing ads—an immensely tricky system to create—unless it involved something like a rebate for buying a product through a Facebook advertisement. On the merchant side, encouraging businesses to pay for ads and services on Facebook with the coin could be one way of staunching the flow of money out of the system.
As the Journal notes, Facebook’s foray into blockchain could look a bit like a loyalty-points system—tokens that can be earned through and spent on Facebook services, or cashed out elsewhere though partner merchants. That’s not without precedent among technology companies: Uber, for example, has Uber Cash, which rewards users for purchases both in and out of Uber with app-specific money. Gans notes offerings like the Apple Card hold a similar purpose: It’s a service that, for all the talk of disrupting the credit card industry, is mostly a shiny, heavy way to buy more of Apple’s apps and products.
A Facebook spokesperson reiterated an earlier comment: “Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications.”
Facebook still faces many challenges, from sorting out how it will oversee the system to assuaging the privacy concerns of users to determining how to funnel money in and out of its currency—a process that, for other cryptocurrencies, is typically handled by exchanges. It also has to contend with the realities of the global economic system, which runs on euros and yen as well as dollars. Even if it backs the currency with a basket of currencies, as reported, it “can’t be stable with every currency in the world,” says Gans. “That’s not how the world works.” Hence the need to enlist financial partners to smooth transactions in and out of Facebook’s system.
Bottom line: It’s very unclear how this will work in practice. “There are a lot of moving parts. Facebook doesn’t always do what we expect,” says Gans.