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Your Next Allstate Inspector Might Be a Drone

Slashdot -

New submitter cameronag writes: Following on the heels of EasyJet's plan to inspect planes with drones, insurance giant Allstate has received FAA clearance to test drones for insurance inspections. The company plans to use drones to inspect roofing, weather damage, and collapsed structures, among other things, and says the technology will ultimately speed up claims processing.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Changes to Domain Name Rules Place User Privacy in Jeopardy

EFF's Deeplinks -

TG Storytime is a free community website for transgender authors, operated by Joe Six-Pack, himself a transgender author and publisher. If you look up the registration details of Joe's domain tgstorytime.com using the WHOIS application, you get this result:

Registrant Name: Registration Private
Registrant Organization: Domains By Proxy, LLC
Registrant Street: DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street: 14747 N Northsight Blvd Suite 111, PMB 309
Registrant City: Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province: Arizona
Registrant Postal Code: 85260
Registrant Country: United States
Registrant Phone: +1.4806242599

Of course, these aren't Joe's actual contact details, since there are many reasons why Joe may not want those private details to be made freely available. Instead, Joe uses a proxy registration service that fulfils the rules of ICANN (the global domain name authority) that contact information be available for all domains, while keeping his actual details private. If anyone really needs to know Joe's physical address or telephone number, they can apply for a court order or subpoena requiring his privacy service to disclose them.

At least, that is how it works now. But under a proposal [PDF] currently being considered by ICANN, that may all change. It is proposed that domains used for commercial purposes might no longer be eligible to use proxy registration services. Is TG Storytime used for commercial purposes? Well, Joe currently covers the site's expenses, but also notes that “ads and donations may be used in the future to cover costs”, and sites that run ads have been judged as commercial in domain name disputes. If a similar broad definition is adopted by ICANN, Joe might well be forced to give up his privacy if he begins to run ads on his site.

Joe is far from alone. Thousands of responses have already been received by ICANN on this topic from others who are concerned about how the proposed policy change will affect them. Amongst them is a message from one user who wrote:

I'm a single female and live alone. I don't want my personal address available to every pervert/troll/angered citizen that wants it after visiting my small website. Seemingly innocent topics, like vegan cooking, can spark outrage in certain individuals.

This change is being pushed by US entertainment companies, who told Congress in March that privacy for domain registration should be allowed only in “limited circumstances.” These and other companies want new tools to discover the identities of website owners whom they want to accuse of copyright and trademark infringement, preferably without a court order. They don't need a new mechanism for this—subpoenas for discovery of the identities of website owners do regularly issue [PDF]. The limited value of this change is manifestly outweighed by the risks to website owners who will suffer a higher risk of harassment, intimidation and identity theft. The ability to speak anonymously protects people with unpopular or marginalized opinions, allowing them to speak and be heard without fear of harm. It also protects whistleblowers who expose crime, waste, and corruption. That's why EFF opposes the new proposal to roll back anonymity.

If you agree, there are many ways in which you can let ICANN know your views. Between now and July 7th, you can send your comments by email to comments-ppsai-initial-05may15@icann.org. You can also support a petition that a coalition of companies and concerned individuals have established at savedomainprivacy.org, or use the phone and email tool of another coalition at respectourprivacy.com, both of which EFF supports.

Related Issues: AnonymityInternational
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Users Betrayed as Australia Adopts a Copyright Censorship Regime

EFF's Deeplinks -

Since our report last week on Australia's Internet censorship bill, the bill did indeed pass the Senate yesterday, and will become the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015. The new law provides an accelerated process for rightsholders to obtain court orders for ISPs to block sites that have the primary purpose of infringing copyright, or “facilitating” its infringement—a term that the law does not define.

During debate the government rejected a series of safeguards that the Australian Greens attempted to introduce to mitigate the risk of abuse of the new law. Besides tightening the definitions, these amendments would have provided affected parties with a right of appeal, and explicitly protected providers of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), who now may face claims that their services are designed to facilitate copyright infringement.

What were some of the arguments in favor of the censorship law that came up in debate? They range from less than compelling, to flat-out wrong. Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, stated that "provisions of the kind contained in the bill have been used in other jurisdictions, including the UK, Ireland and Singapore, and in these jurisdictions an injunction is often ordered without any opposition from the internet service provider concerned."

That's not quite true—for example, there has not been a single concluded case yet in Singapore (a country that also bans unlicensed public assemblies, and chewing gum). We can also add a couple of other entries to Fletcher's list—Russia also recently introduced copyright censorship laws, shortly after its laws banning LGBT “propaganda”, and Turkey has had a similar provision in its copyright law since 2004, which it exercises regularly, besides also blocking social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Australia can now be proud to join that illustrious club.

Giving a hint of the future direction of Web blocking in Australia, Government Senator Nola Marino, made the following ominous remarks in the course of a rightsholder-inspired “won't somebody think of the children” spiel:

There are 3.4 billion people plus in the world using the Internet. At least 1.3 billion people use Facebook. There are tens of thousands of websites, many with absolutely no encryption and no protection of any sort. That is the environment people are in. The 3.4 billion people using the Internet often have no idea what they are exposing themselves or their systems to when they engage in this space.

Imagine that—tens of thousands of websites! This makes it all the more impressive that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) accidentally blocked up to a quarter of a million of them at once when applying another web-blocking law.

Even more worrying, Senator David Coleman foreshadowed the movement of web blocking outside of the legal regime established by the new censorship law, and into the darkness of informal backroom arrangements:

I concur with others in this debate in saying that I think the way that this will play out is that in the early days you will probably see a number of court actions initiated. You will see some court orders issued for take-down notices for infringing material. But then what will happen, logically, over time, is that ISPs and content providers will work together in a sensible way. No doubt they will circumvent much of that court formality and work together in a constructive fashion to take down offending material, and that is as it should be.

On the other hand, opposition Senator Ed Husic (who spoke against the bill, notwithstanding that his party voted for it anyway) pointed out the obvious:

You have not once heard a rights holder say that if they get major gains in reducing piracy this will flow through to better prices and better accessible content. I dare them to actually say it. They will not do it. They will not respond to consumers. They will spend their time lobbying for legal responses to market failure, and the legislation reflects a government attitude and an attitude of extreme rights holder attitudes that will not respect that consumers, when they are given choice with content, will pay for content and will pay for better content.

Amongst the minority of Senators who not only spoke against the law, but also voted against it, was David Leyonhjelm who labelled it “bad law” and said:

Website blocking is a drastic remedy and a blunt tool. The bill has the potential to be used against a range of legitimate sites and has inadequate protections for non-party interests. Meanwhile, placing increased emphasis on enforcement without addressing the other overdue reforms of the Copyright Act risks a ridiculously unbalanced copyright regime.

Similar criticisms were made by Senator Scott Ludlam, who did at least manage to successfully introduce one amendment requiring the government to finally respond to the Australian Law Reform Committee's (ALRC) report on Copyright and the Digital Economy, which had recommended that Australia adopt a fair use exception in its copyright law. The government has repeatedly brushed off this recommendation while pursing its own copyright enforcement agenda, but will now at least be required to provide the ALRC with the courtesy of a formal response by September 17—almost two years after the report was issued.

After bombarding Australians with one heavy-handed enforcement measure after another over the past twelve months—including mandatory data retention and a co-regulatory graduated response code (which is pending registration), the very least that Australian users deserve in return is for fair use to be given a fair hearing.

Correction: the title MP was incorrectly used in an earlier version of this post when referring to Senators.

Related Issues: SOPA/PIPA: Internet Blacklist LegislationInternational
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CryptoWall: Hackers using bitcoin to demand ransoms

Bitcoin feeds -

The post CryptoWall: Hackers using bitcoin to demand ransoms appeared first on 99 Bitcoins.

Web users have to worry about yet another security threat: ransomware. The FBI now estimates that losses due to ransomware, a type of malware, topped $18 million dollars in the last year. Unfortunately, hackers have been using bitcoin and other digital currencies as their primary choice for payments. As bitcoin transactions hide the identity of [...]

Roger Ver Backing Prediction Market Sidechain: ‘May Be the Most Important Invention Since Bitcoin’

Bitcoin Magazine -

In one of the more exciting developments in the Bitcoin space so far this year, noted Bitcoin angel investor and entrepreneur Roger Ver has given his blessing to a Bitcoin 2.0 application, and it’s one that some may have overlooked in the past. Truthcoin, a Bitcoin sidechain designed by Yale Department of Economics Researcher Paul Sztorc, is described as a “peer-to-peer oracle system and prediction marketplace.”

The platform is a decentralized method of bringing external data, such as the price of gold or the weather in a particular city, to the blockchain, which can then be used as the basis for complex smart contracts.

Roger Ver’s backing of Truthcoin

Ver is excited about what may become possible through the use of a working implementation of Truthcoin, and shared the following statement via email: “I really do think that decentralized prediction markets may be the most important invention since Bitcoin, and will certainly change the way our world works.”

The perpetual Bitcoin angel investor has been silently funding a C++ programmer who is building a working Truthcoin implementation using a fork of the original Bitcoin codebase. Some of this early code is now available on GitHub. Ver also shared some complimentary remarks in regard to Truthcoin Creator Paul Sztorc’s understanding of the technical challenges ahead.

“Compared to Paul, I don’t think there are many people on the planet” who could have created something like Truthcoin, Ver said. “Before meeting him, I already understood some of the benefits and exciting things that distributed prediction markets will bring to the world, so upon meeting Paul, he seemed like the right person to help make it a reality, so I agreed to get involved.”

No empty promises

Sztorc has made it a point to avoid any sort of Truthcoin crowdsale without an actual product to back the offering, and he has noted his discontent with other Bitcoin 2.0 crowdsales in the past. The Truthcoin creator plans to insist that a crowdsale does not take place until the software has been built, tested and operational for “at least three months” without any need for a hard fork.

It should be noted that anyone who wishes to place a bet on the Truthcoin network will be able to do so with their bitcoin-denominated sidechain tokens. Any crowdsale for this project would likely involve the sale of votecoins, which are used by individuals who wish to vote on the outcomes of real life events. Holders of votecoins who honestly report the outcome of an event are then rewarded with fees generated from the participants in a particular prediction market.

In addition to a possible crowdsale, the monetization model for this project also includes the expected growth in the bitcoin price for holders of the digital money.

When will Truthcoin be available?

In an email to Bitcoin Magazine, Sztorc noted that Truthcoin is currently a testnet “altcoin” with only two people running nodes. “In fact, it really isn’t much of anything yet,” he added.

The votecoin in this current setup are not intended to have any value and should be viewed in a manner similar to testnet bitcoin. Sztorc also wrote about how Truthcoin might earliest become a Bitcoin sidechain.

“What would (obviously) be really cool is if, at some point, someone from Blockstream would rip it open and graft in something to make this version a ‘testnet sidechain’ so that testnet coins could hop over,” he said.

The Truthcoin team doesn’t have the time to deal with sidechain compatibility right now, and Sztorc even mentioned it “might interfere with early testing.”

Sztorc also did not want to reveal any kind of release date as he “[doesn’t] endorse that type of forecasting.” In the past, Sztorc has poked fun at Ethereum’s Frontier release due to prediction markets at Fairlay.com that seem to indicate that the release won’t happen until after August 1. This is far off from the project’s original launch date.

For now, anyone interested in the project can visit the Truthcoin forums, read the latest version (1.4) of the Truthcoin whitepaper, or follow Sztorc’s blog.

The post Roger Ver Backing Prediction Market Sidechain: ‘May Be the Most Important Invention Since Bitcoin’ appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Elliptic Launches Anti-money Laundering Visualization Tool

Bitcoin Magazine -

London-based bitcoin analytics and security firm Elliptic announced that it has launched “The Bitcoin Big Bang,” an interactive visualization that plots the emergence and interconnectivity of the key players in Bitcoin since its genesis in 2009.

Elliptic describes The Bitcoin Big Bang as a breakthrough in bitcoin transaction monitoring and compliance that will help “Bitcoin startups thoughout the UK gain banking services” according to Elliptic COO Dr. Tim Robinson. Elliptic has harnessed the underlying technology supporting the visualization to deliver a full suite of anti-money laundering (AML) services. The API will enable real-time compliance, by alerting recipients of bitcoin payments linked to known thefts, illicit marketplaces and other criminal activity.

The visualization identifies more than 250 of the largest entities and the historical transactions between them. Illicit marketplaces and money laundering services are identified by name, while standard entities are described purely by their primary business to protect privacy.

“If digital currency is to take its legitimate place in the enterprise it inevitably must step out of the shadows of the dark web,” said Elliptic CEO James Smith. “Our technology allows us to trace historic and real-time flow, and represents the tipping point for enterprise adoption of Bitcoin. We have developed this technology not to incriminate nor to pry; but to support businesses’ anti-money laundering obligations. Compliance officers can finally have peace of mind, knowing that they have performed real, defensible diligence to ascertain that their bitcoin holdings are not derived from the proceeds of crime.”

The Elliptic AML suite will be available in July to a select group of early customers.

Elliptic is the founding member of the U.K. Digital Currency Association (UKDCA), working with the U.K. government and financial regulators to help shape a regulatory framework for digital currencies.

The Swiss company Chainalysis offers a similar service that provides financial institutions with the means to obtain regulatory compliance through real-time analysis of the blockchain, including an API for sophisticated in-depth real-time blockchain transaction analysis. Chainalysis customers – including regulatory entities, law enforcement and financial service providers – can obtain insight on all transactions recorded in the Bitcoin blockchain and use tools to determine the origin of the bitcoin held by any address. Unlike Chainalysis however, Elliptic has strict privacy controls in places, only reporting a users risk profile to customers but not the specific parties transacted with.

It is evident that Bitcoin is moving toward mainstreaming and regulations, and the services offered by Elliptic and Chainalysis are here to stay, but such services meet opposition from an important part of the Bitcoin community. In April, a leaked Chainalysis roadmap was received with anger and hostile comments, and it seems likely that the Elliptic announcement will cause similar reactions.

“Elliptic’s founding principle is to bring confidence and certainty to enterprises working with bitcoin,” said Smith. “We were the first bitcoin custodian to provide comprehensive insurance, the first to be Big Four-accredited and now the first to visualize the flows of bitcoin and explode the anonymity myth of the blockchain.”

Indeed, every transaction and the full transaction history of any bitcoin address are permanently recorded in the blockchain and open to analysis. The illusion of anonymity stems from the pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin addresses, which are not explicitly associated to their owners, but sophisticated blockchain analysis tools such as those provided by Chainalysis and Elliptic can often de-anonymize bitcoin users.

The post Elliptic Launches Anti-money Laundering Visualization Tool appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

BitTorrent Creator Criticizes Increased Block Size Proposals

Bitcoin Magazine -

In May, Bitcoin Magazine reported that lead Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen is persuaded that the best solution to the limited Bitcoin transactions rate – the Bitcoin network can currently process only a few transactions per second — is to increase the maximum block size.

Andresen argued that if the proposed solution is not urgently implemented the Bitcoin network will become oversaturated, and developed code for a proposed Bitcoin hard fork that would allow any block with a timestamp on or after March 1, 2016 to be up to 20 megabytes.

However, not everyone agrees that Andresen’s proposal is the best path forward. The MIT Technology Review published a review, titled “Leaderless Bitcoin Struggles to Make Its Most Crucial Decision,” of the pros and cons of the proposed hard fork.

Recently several of the larger mining pools, amounting to around 60 percent of the total mining capacity, have agreed to a compromise: The maximum block size would be increased to 8 megabytes instead of 20. NewsBTC reported that, even though the 8 megabyte block size is smaller than the initially 20 megabyte block size proposed, Andresen is happy about the proposal and there seems to be a consensus.

Now BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen has weighed in on the debate. In a Medium post titled “Bitcoin’s Ironic Crisis,” Cohen criticizes the proposals to increase the block size and warns, in very blunt terms, that Bitcoin is heading toward an unexpected crisis “of being undermined by a developer who’s gone rogue, using his political influence to convince vendors that an upcoming minor problem will be a major crisis, getting them to accept his own extraordinarily bad pet solution to that problem, and as a result hurtling the whole ecosystem towards potential disaster.”

The rogue developer is, according to Cohen, Gavin Andresen.

“Gavin didn’t invent Bitcoin,” says Cohen. ”He isn’t even a Bitcoin developer anymore. He resigned his position as lead developer a year ago, and has been largely inactive since. Using a voting process, or even a system of rough consensus among core developers would cause his proposal to be quickly rejected. It’s only the exertion of outside political force which has forced it to be taken seriously.”

The political influence that Cohen is denouncing could be the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, which Andresen and other Bitcoin developers joined as soon as it was launched and is positioning itself as a de-facto governance body for Bitcoin technical development.

Cohen thinks that proposed extensions to Bitcoin should go through a sort of voting process where miners indicate that they’re willing to accept them. Concerning the specific case of the block size limit, he thinks there are no problems, let alone urgent problems, that must be solved. The only thing that would happen when the block size limit – which is a limit on the bitcoin transactions rate – is reached is that the transaction fees would go up.

That, according to Cohen, is not a bad thing. On the contrary, he thinks that high transaction fees would be the first clear evidence of Bitcoin providing real value instead of just being a vehicle for speculation, and it would also lead to miners directly earning more money.

Cohen’s article will certainly put even more steam in the Bitcoin block size debate. Cohen may have been too blunt in his criticism of Anderson, but the opinion of the creator of BitTorrent, the first building block of the developing P2P Internet and a Bitcoin precursor, certainly deserves full consideration.


Photo Abstract blocks / Photopin

The post BitTorrent Creator Criticizes Increased Block Size Proposals appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Snapcard Launches MassPay for Bitcoin-Powered Cross-Border Payments

Bitcoin Magazine -

Bitcoin payment processor and e-wallet provider Snapcard has announced the launch of its MassPay platform today. This new platform and API will allow businesses to send cross-border payments of all sizes to their users en masse with nothing more than an email address, phone number, or Bitcoin address on file.

MassPay also allows businesses to make these mass payments without having to worry about the volatility risk associated with bitcoin, and the platform could be seen as highly advantageous for a variety of online industries.

How it works

Snapcard has provided Bitcoin Magazine with an internal company brief on how the MassPay system works:

  1. A merchant or business decides it wants to integrate with the MassPay API, and Snapcard credits its account with the company’s local currency.
  2. When a user or contractor triggers a payout via the API, the MassPay system is activated and sends a fiat-denominated amount of bitcoin to the recipient via an email, phone number or Bitcoin address.
  3. The user or contractor is then notified that a payment has been received and will have the option to keep the bitcoin or withdraw it to his or her local currency for a 0.25 percent fee. The withdrawal process can take anywhere from three hours to three days depending on the country, and the fiat currency will be made available in a user’s bank account in most cases. Converting to fiat is currently available in 26 countries, although Snapcard hopes to expand this functionality to an additional 20-30 countries by the end of the year.

Launching with the Tango Card rewards platform

For the launch of their MassPay system, Snapcard has partnered with Tango Card, which is the largest rewards-as-a-service platform in the world. Tango Card has helped thousands of companies reward their users with gift cards in the past, but this new partnership with Snapcard will provide a more dynamic, flexible payout option for their clients’ users.

“Tango Card was able to use our new MassPay API to allow their users to receive Bitcoin Rewards at an email address, phone number or a Bitcoin address, all without taking on any of the currency risk,” Snapcard CEO Michael Dunworth explained.

More uses of this platform

Dunworth also described the original inspiration for MassPay, which involves a problem that affects a few different online industries. “We saw the opportunity for MassPay when we noticed partners being unable to pay out customers efficiently,” he said.

Whether it’s a rewards program for user activity or mass payments to publishers on a digital ad network, making small payments on a massive scale has been difficult in the past. This is Snapcard’s area of focus with MassPay.

From Snapcard’s perspective, the first four key areas where the MassPay platform will be useful are the mobile gaming industry, marketplaces, digital content sales and ad networks.

“Digital content companies are now able to streamline their payouts to all of their freelancers, artists and designers all with a simple API call,” Dunworth said. “Additionally, we’ve been working closely with a lot of game developers to make sure the MassPay API will plug in nicely to their gaming ecosystems.”

The post Snapcard Launches MassPay for Bitcoin-Powered Cross-Border Payments appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.


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