Author: Paul How

Toyota sees drop in ad fraud with blockchain-powered campaign

An initial advertising campaign for automotive manufacturer Toyota tracked by blockchain technology saw visits to the company’s website increase by 21% compared to similar campaigns.

Blockchain advertising analytics firm Lucidity, in a press release, announced its partnership with Toyota and ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi for the pilot campaign, which it said was the “final test” to show if a blockchain-powered online ad campaign could “deliver real results for real brands.”

Toyota National Marketing Communications Manager Nancy Inouye said, “Before today, there was no way to verify with confidence what’s happening behind the scenes in a programmatic buy. We’ve had our eyes on blockchain innovation for a long time, but didn’t have a workable blockchain solution until now.”

The campaign involved an analysis of data on clicks and impressions to find discrepancies, which according to online magazine Ad Age included domain spoofing and bot traffic. With this information, certain sites and apps associated with the discrepancies were blacklisted, and funding was diverted to better performing sites.

Saatchi & Saatchi Media Director Tom Scott said, “Even with high standards of anti-fraud and viewability filters already built in, Lucidity was able to deliver significant value-add by further optimizing the campaign. The ability to have access to a transparent, clean set of data from across the programmatic supply chain is game-changing. We’re empowered to take action, and this is the first time we’ve been able to use blockchain technology to eliminate waste and optimize our ad buy in this way.”

Lucidity Chief Operating Officer Nikao Yang said, “The reality is that programmatic supply chains don’t always behave as intended, and bad behavior comes into play. Our blockchain solution gives partners like Toyota deeper, log-level optics into their ad spend at every point in the supply chain to combat these challenges.”

Yang was quoted in the Ad Age article as saying that Lucidity’s technology allowed everyone in the supply chain a say as to whether an ad impression was valid. “We are not necessarily just looking for fraud. Lucidity exposes supply chain breakdowns… Lucidity allows marketers to optimize away from these breakdowns, which yields greater performance,” he said.

Inouye hinted at a continuation of campaigns with Lucidity in the future. “We are in discussions to take it to the next step and [test] further with additional campaigns for a longer period of time. We feel that if we go longer, we would see stronger results,” she said.

According to Lucidity, the automotive digital advertising industry was a $15-billion market this year in the U.S. alone.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Steve Wozniak tosses hat in blockchain VC ring

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has put his name behind EQUI Global, a blockchain-powered venture capital fund from the founders of a similarly named company that had failed to raise adequate funds earlier this year.

A blog post from EQUI Global announced the partnership, naming Wozniak as a co-founder along with entrepreneurs Doug Barrowman and Michelle Mone. The company seeks “to disrupt the venture capital industry—one that is considered to be extremely traditional.”

People can invest in the fund through the purchase of EquiTokens. Wozniak, as head of technology investments, will “help find the tech stars of tomorrow. Woz will then bring them to the table and the board of serial entrepreneurs will mentor and coach them with world class expertise and guidance,” according to the press statement.

Up to 80% of the EQUI Global fund will be placed in technology, while the remaining amount will be for assets such as real estate and collectibles such as art and vintage cars.

Wozniak said, “I get ideas pitched to me every single day in fact dozens and I always say no. Since I co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, this is about the second time in twenty years that I actually said yes, I want to be a part of this. It has to be something I really believe in and I really believe in EQUI… I know that we have something very special with EQUI. I’ve since enjoyed giving my feedback to the technical side of the initiative and will very much be an actively involved proud co-founder.”

Barrowman and Mone launched EQUI Capital last February. A March initial coin offering (ICO) was targeted to raise $75 million. After about a month, however, the company only managed to raise about 10% of its target, and its subsequent campaign that offered “bounties” to those who promoted the ICO online, failed to generate the desired funds. Reacting to complaints of so-called bounty hunters being paid only a small amount owed to them, a spokeswoman for Mone reportedly said that another company, AmaZix, was responsible for the bounty program.

Wozniak said of the new enterprise, “I am very pleased that my business partners are the respected Michelle and Doug… I greatly admire Michelle and Doug for their huge accomplishments.” He added that EQUI Global was already looking at more than 20 businesses to invest in.

Wozniak, an outspoken advocate of cryptocurrencies, is entering the blockchain business for the first time. Last February, he admitted to being robbed of cryptocurrencies worth about $75,000 at the time, through a credit card scam.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Coinbase opens Dublin office amid Brexit uncertainty

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has announced the opening of a Dublin site, its second office in Europe.

In a blog post, Coinbase Vice-President for Operations and Technology Tina Bhatnagar said, “Our new office will help us tap into the city’s diverse talent pool and long-standing support for technological innovation, including a burgeoning cryptocurrency economy.”

She said that the team in Dublin “will complement Coinbase operations in London and host a variety of new business-related functions, including roles for which we’re hiring right now.”

Ireland’s Minister for Financial Services and Insurance Michael D’Arcy said, “This decision highlights the competitive offering and attractiveness of Ireland for financial services.”

Coinbase UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz told CNBC that uncertainty in the implementation of policies after Great Britain’s 2016 vote to separate from the European Union (EU), “played some part in the decision.” He also pointed out that “[t]he EU is our most significant market outside the U.S.”

Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, the country’s inward investment promotion agency, said, “Dublin is a talent hotspot for companies like Coinbase as they scale and internationalize critical business operations.”

Last month, the UK Parliament’s Treasury committee released a report that recommended for additional oversight of the cryptocurrency trade, to be handled by the Financial Conduct Authority. The report denied that cryptocurrencies served as media of exchange, due to their volatility in price.

Coinbase has also recently opened an office in New York, to focus mainly on institutional clients. The New York office currently has a work force of 20, but is set to increase by 150 next year, to handle the expansion.

Even at present, regular users are reportedly experiencing delays with withdrawal of funds. Some 200 pages of complaints against Coinbase had reportedly been filed at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last summer. Responding to such concerns, the company said it was addressing the problems by hiring more personnel and working to reduce response times, among other actions.

As part of Coinbase’s efforts at developing its global market, it has modified its cryptocurrency listing procedure, allowing users to directly suggest or apply for tokens to be listed.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Financial giant Fidelity launches crypto company

Financial services giant Fidelity Investments has launched its cryptocurrency service for institutional investors.

The new company, Fidelity Digital Asset Services, LLC, will be providing cryptocurrency trading as well as custody services, according to Fidelity.

Fidelity Investments Chairman and CEO Abigail Johnson said, “We expect to continue investing and experimenting, over the long-term, with ways to make this emerging asset class easier for our clients to understand and use.”

Fidelity Digital Asset Services head Tom Jessop said that his team had been exploring blockchain for years. The company began researching with its Blockchain Incubator in 2013, experimenting with mining, and allowing clients to view their Coinbase exchange accounts on Fidelity.com. It had also launched Fidelity Charitable in 2015, which received $69 million in cryptocurrency donations in 2017.

“The creation of Fidelity Digital Assets is the first step in a long-term vision to create a full-service enterprise-grade platform for digital assets,” Jessop said.

He noted that there remained a lack of support for institutions, even as there are already numerous cryptocurrency-related services available.

According to the Fidelity Global Institutional Investor Survey conducted this year in 25 countries, 70% of institutional investors saw new asset classes coming about with the increased use of blockchain and other technologies.

“Whether it’s the rising popularity as a store of value or relative non-correlation to the broader market, the potential to power lower-cost global payments, or the emergence of protocols that could power new industries, institutional investors are interested in engaging with this new asset class,” the Fidelity Investments statement read.

Aside from digital asset custody and trade execution services, Fidelity Digital Asset Services will also offer client support where investors “will have access to a dedicated team of client service specialists, from onboarding throughout the entire relationship with the company.”

Fidelity Investments, a 70-year-old company, manages $7.2 trillion in assets worldwide, and employs 40,000 people. The company first announced its intention to enter the cryptocurrency market last June.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Crypto regulations coming to UK by 2020

Regulation of the UK cryptocurrency market could take two more years to enact, according to corporate law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC).

In a press release, the firm said that a two-year timeframe for passage of legislation on cryptocurrencies was a “best-case scenario,” based on previous financial legislation.

In September, the UK Parliament’s Treasury committee released its report on cryptocurrencies in which it stated that the “Wild West situation” of the industry could not continue. The highly critical report suggested for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to be the regulating body.

RPC said, “Past precedents show it can take years to make relatively minor regulatory changes to the financial regulatory regime. For example, it took two and a half years from the Treasury’s original announcement (10 May 2004) for the regulation of home reversion plans to come in force (6 November 2006).”

According to the firm, HM Treasury would have to assess, “perhaps with market study,” what cryptocurrency-related activities are to be regulated, as well as conduct consultations on proposed draft rules.

“Even if MP’s latest proposals were fast tracked, it could still take years for regulations to cover the UK cryptocurrency market that tread the middle ground between protecting retail participants and allowing the UK’s cryptocurrency market to thrive,” James Kaufmann, RPC legal director, said.

He also expressed concerns that “[b]ringing a complex and fast evolving area like cryptocurrencies into a regulatory framework is going to be a difficult and lengthy process. Added to this, big issues like Brexit are already occupying a lot of regulator’s time.”

Although the Parliament members had tagged the FCA as a regulator, RPC questioned if the agency would have the capacity, funding, and expertise to regulate cryptocurrencies, and be able to prepare for markets’ reaction to the regulations.

The firm added that it agreed with the sentiment of the Treasury committee report on the value of implementing “a workable regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.” Kaufmann said, “The creation of a cryptocurrency trading hub may also have positive knock-on effects for businesses serving these markets, such as brokers, investment banks, and custodians as well as a potential increase in tax revenues for authorities.”

Even with warnings of cryptocurrency-related investments, the trade is largely uninhibited in the UK. The London Block Exchange (LBX) recently launched a service that would allow storage, transfer, and management of digital assets, initially for traders, investment fund managers,s and companies with initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Furthermore, the use of blockchain technology is also being explored for the management of landlines and the land registry in the UK.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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South Korea position on ICOs out by November

The South Korean government will have an official position on initial coin offerings (ICOs) by the next month, even as the country’s top regulator maintains its desire to uphold the existing ban.

Local outlet The Investor reported that Office for Government Policy Coordination Chief Hong Nam-ki said at a parliamentary audit that the government was just waiting for results of a survey of local blockchain companies conducted in September by the Financial Supervisory Service.

“We have had several discussions [on ICOs]… Once the survey results are in by end-October, we plan to finalize the government’s stance,” Hong said, adding that the survey was done “as some companies are conducting or preparing for ICOs despite the ban here.”

ICOs have been prohibited in South Korea since September 2017, even as cryptocurrency exchanges have been allowed to operate. The country’s National Assembly has recommended the lifting of the ban, with an eye on coming up with a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in general. As things stand, South Koreans have simply availed of ICOs abroad, in lieu of local offerings.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Commission remains dismissive of moves to once again allow ICOs, according to a report by news agency Yonhap News. FSC Chairman Choi Jong-ku said that “Although many people call for the government to allow initial coin offerings, there are still uncertainties related to such a move as well as the possibility of serious fallouts.”

Choi also said that the government wants to promote the blockchain industry, but that cryptocurrency exchanges are to continue to be strictly regulated.

Several South Korean exchanges have been the target of hackers, who have managed to take $30 million worth of cryptocurrencies from Bithumb, and about $40 million from Coinrail, just last June.

In spite of regulatory uncertainty and recent vulnerability of exchanges, the cryptocurrency trade has managed to thrive in the country. Last week, news came out that Singaporean blockchain consortium BK Global will be purchasing a majority stake in Bithumb for KRW400 billion ($354 million).

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Companies struggle to keep up with ICO regulations: report

The regulatory environment for initial coin offerings (ICOs) remains uncertain, leaving thousands of firms open to sanctions, according to an investigative report published on Decrypt Media.

“Concerns over the legality of token sales have had a chilling effect,” read the report, a joint effort between Decrypt and Yahoo Finance.

Last September, a New York court ruled that ICOs involve the selling of securities and are covered by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules. However, the details for compliance remain over these firms’ heads.

According to Decrypt, companies that the commission had subpoenaed earlier this year are being checked up on. “Many startups that have been subpoenaed say they are left in the dark struggling to satisfy the SEC’s demands, and are uncertain of how others are handling it,” the report read, adding that the SEC has subpoenaed more companies since.

Because the commission already views ICO products as securities, and may not publish further regulations that are blockchain-specific, Decrypt said, “[T]here’s even a lack of clarity around whether there is a lack of regulatory clarity.”

SEC Chief of Enforcement Division Cyber Unit Robert Cohen said that companies’ efforts at complying with regulations to limit their offering to accredited investors varied. “Some companies tell us the name of the law firm that advised them, explain the know-your-customer procedures they followed, and show us an investor list that is limited to accredited investors. At the other end of the spectrum, some point to a website statement about limiting the ICO to some investors, and possibly checkboxes, and that’s it.”

The report said that many companies called on by the SEC are simply refunding customers, to avoid further legal complications and costs. One unidentified company said, “The last thing we want is a press release they put out with only our name on it.”

However, those who have already issued their tokens are not able to simply refund the money. Chainalysis CEO Jony Levin said, “In a lot of cases people bought tokens in ICOs through exchange accounts at places like Kraken. So you can’t just send tokens back to the address you got them from, because that’s an exchange address. If ICOs are made to refund buyers, it will have to be similar to the Mt. Gox case: you make a public announcement and people have to prove they were a contributor.”

The Decrypt Media-Yahoo Finance investigatory report was based on conversations “with more than 15 industry sources,” many of whom requested anonymity.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Russian crypto exchange YoBit advertises pump scheme

Russia-based cryptocurrency exchange YoBit has announced a scheduled pumping of coins selected at random.

In its tweet, YoBit gave no specific reasons for its action, wherein “we will buy one random coin for 1 btc every 1-2 mins 10 times (total buy amount – 10 btc).” The exchange, which lists thousands of altcoins, also provided a timer 22 hours prior to the trades. As of this writing, there are six hours left before execution of the scheme.

We can only wait to see the effect on whatever coins are selected, but the tweet is notable for its unusual nature. Usually, when an asset is bought in the hopes of spurring demand from other investors, it is done more discreetly, so as to sell at a peak.

Last February, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which has classified cryptocurrencies as commodities under its jurisdiction, had already warned the public of pump-and-dump scams, saying, “As with many online frauds, this type of scam is not new-it simply deploys an emerging technology to capitalize on public interest in digital assets.” It remains to be seen, however, how regulatory agencies will react, given the forthrightness of the exchange.

Commenters on the YoBit tweet expressed disbelief, amusement, and outrage, as well as cluelessness. Several users on reddit have confirmed the existence of e-mails sent by the company, with address news-mailer@yobit.net, indicating that the exchange had not been hacked.

Already, trading platform Coinigy has tweeted its plan to delist YoBit from its network of cryptocurrency exchanges, “due to overwhelming negative experiences as documented on social media and forums, among other reasons.” However, it said it would be “asking for feedback first. As a popular platform in the crypto trading space, it is essential for us to be diligent and not promote sites that may harm our users.”

YoBit has been operating since 2015.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Crypto thefts worldwide to hit over $1B in 2018

Cryptocurrency thefts globally are expected to reach over $1 billion this year, about four times the recorded thefts in 2017, according to a report from CipherTrace, a firm that specializes in ensuring legal compliance for blockchain transactions.

From the first three quarters of 2018, already $927 million worth of cryptocurrencies has been documented as stolen, according to the company.

Included in the listed amounts were high-profile hacks of cryptocurrency exchanges such as $530 million worth of tokens stolen from Japanese exchange Coincheck, and $195 million taken from Italian exchange BitGrail.

“Additionally, CipherTrace is aware of over $60 million in cryptocurrency that was stolen but not reported publicly,” the report read.

The company also pointed out that the figure for the first three quarters of 2018 was already 3.5 times larger than all of the previous year, where $266 million was reported stolen globally.

CipherTrace, which deals with blockchain forensics and enforcement solutions, stressed that stricter regulations in the cryptocurrency trade were in demand all over the world. “Establishing their countries’ reputations as ‘safe’ digital markets helps to attract trustworthy cryptocurrency exchanges and digital asset businesses,” according to the company.

It cited the European Commission’s fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive last July, and policies and monitoring of the Financial Action Task Force, as part of current regulatory initiatives.

The report also noted how existing anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations for the cryptocurrency trade have been moving the use of cryptocurrencies for criminal activity to less regulated markets. The result is that 97% of BTC payments for criminal activity ended up in unregulated exchanges or in exchanges of countries with weak AML legislation.

According to CipherTrace, 4.7% of total BTC received in countries with weak regulations comes from criminal activity, which it defined as directly coming from sources such as dark market sites, extortion, malware, money laundering sites, ransomware, and terrorist financing.

The data analyzed came from 45 million transactions in the top 20 cryptocurrency exchanges, up to last September 29. Using U.S. Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs data, CipherTrace determined that 79 of 212 “have weak AML regimes” due to lack of government controls to regulate drug dealing and money laundering, to enforce KYC regulations, report large and suspicious transactions, and maintain records over time.

The data showed that 95% of BTC paid from exchanges to criminals, worth $1.5 billion at present prices, was sent from unregulated exchanges.

CipherTrace added that “the unregulated exchange is growing at 300%, with risky transactions and criminal transactions growing fastest.”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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OTCXN hires Kingdom Trust as custodian

Trading platform OTC Exchange Network (OTCXN) announced its partnership with cryptocurrency custodian Kingdom Trust, in a press release.

Kingdom Trust will “serve as a neutral, third-party custodian of assets for trading entities and exchanges that use OTCXN technology to facilitate clearing and settlement of OTC block trades and cross-exchange trading,” according to the release.

OTCXN noted that the cryptocurrency custodian was the first regulated financial institution to provide custody of cryptocurrencies, of which it holds more than $12 billion.

Rosario Ingargiola, CEO and founder of OTCXN, said, “Kingdom Trust is one of only a few regulated U.S. entities that offers stand-alone custody services in both fiat and cryptocurrencies. They stand out for their integrity, experience, state-of-the-art infrastructure and client asset protection.”

Kingdom Trust CEO Matt Jennings said, “By partnering with OTCXN, Kingdom Trust will be able to offer its clients the best of both worlds, i.e., the ability to ‘trade hot, store cold.’ The OTCXN platform, its networks, and partners will offer the power of rapid liquidity to clients and markets where that has been in short supply.” The partnership, he added, would help eliminate counterparty and settlement risk.

OTCXN explained that “[t]rades on OTCXN execute as an atomic exchange of provable assets on the custodial blockchain ledgers in real-time, for instant clearing and settlement, with underlying assets held at the custodian, and crypto assets remaining in cold or deep storage.”

Among OTCXN’s others planned ventures is the launch of LiquiMatch, designed to allow clients of custodians on the network to access liquidity across OTCXN’s various platforms through a single account.

The company will also be servicing third-party credit and collateral providers, to aid them in the financing of traders’ long and short positions, offering margin loans and coin repurchase agreements, among other financial products.

Kingdom Trust is also partners with insurance market Lloyd’s of London, which provides insurance for cryptocurrencies held by Kingdom Trust in behalf of institutional investors.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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