The Blockchain Association has called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue more formal guidance on cryptocurrencies. As such, it has outlined a proposed regulatory framework based on previous SEC comments.
Through a post on Medium, The Blockchain Association attempts to codify language issued by the SEC’s Corporation Finance Direction William Hinman. Titled The Hinman Token Standard, Blockchain Association suggests the following guidance:
“A project should meet the standards for decentralization if it more decentralized than the Bitcoin or Ethereum networks on June 14th, 2018.”
The logic behind this statement stems from Hinman’s clarification in June 2018 that bitcoin and ethereum were not considered securities. It follows that if bitcoin and ethereum were sufficiently decentralized on that date, then other projects should aim to meet that standard.
“This uncertainty has a stifling effect on investment”
Further, the SEC chairman Jay Clayton publicly said: “I believe every ICO I’ve seen is a security.”
If cryptocurrencies are considered securities, they will be subject to much more stringent investor regulations. As the Blockchain Association explains, “we must know when tokens qualify as securities and when they do not so innovators know which regulatory regime applies.”
The contradicting statements and lack of clarity is stifling creativity and forcing promising startups out of the US.
“More decentralized than the Bitcoin or Ethereum networks on June 14, 2018”
The Blockchain Association’s proposed guidelines suggest the SEC stick to its conclusion that Bitcoin and Ethereum are sufficiently decentralized. Future policymaking should use this starting point as a foundation, they urge.
The association argues that this is a reasonable starting point with room for a somewhat centralized leadership when required.
Other proposals suggest implementing The Howey Testto cryptocurrency projects. The Howey Test outlines the definition of a security or investment contract and circles around the expectation of profit from a particular promotor or third-party.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has reminded crypto investors to be cautious about information posted to social media. According to the SEC, big social media accounts and “influencers” are often paid to promote crypto projects, tokens, and securities that might be fraudulent.
The reminder comes after the SEC fined two celebrities last week for promoting cryptocurrencies without disclosing they were paid to do so.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr received $300,000 to promote three initial coin offerings (ICOs) to his large social media following, while DJ Khaled was paid $50,000 to promote Centra’s ICO. Neither individual disclosed to their followers that their endorsement was paid.
Mayweather was subsequently fined more than $600,000 and is banned from promoting securities for three years.
The SEC explained: “These cases highlight the importance of full disclosure to investors… With no disclosure of payment, Mayweather and Khaled’s ICO promotions may have appeared to be unbiased, rather than paid endorsements.”
It’s a reminder to any crypto investor: do your own research. Don’t trust the opinions of others as you never know the true motivations behind their advice.
1/2 SEC ENF Co-Dir Peikin: “Investors should be skeptical of investment advice posted to social media platforms, and should not make decisions based on celebrity endorsements…
2/2 … Social media influencers are often paid promoters, not investment professionals, and the securities they’re touting, regardless of whether they are issued using traditional certificates or on the blockchain, could be frauds.” https://t.co/WzgvPU7Esg
Imagine if cryptocurrencies were “airdropped” into the real world around us.
Imagine you could use your smartphone to find and collect cryptocurrencies at major events like the Olympics. Or search for discount Starbucks tokens in the local mall.
Think Pokemon Go!, but instead of finding and catching Pikachu, you’re looking for crypto.
That’s the vision of Platin and the revolutionary “proof of location” concept.
Looking beyond the playful side, Platin also threatens to disrupt traditional location services with a secure and private way to manage location data.
Block Explorer editor Ben Brown caught up with Platin founder Dr. Lionel Wolberger ahead of the project’s ICO launch to discuss how it works, privacy, and the choice to launch an ICO.
Ben Brown: Can you describe Platin in a couple of short sentences?
Lionel Wolberger: Platin is a lightweight, secure and verifiable Proof of Location (PoL) protocol on the blockchain. It is poised to disrupt a wide range of markets around the globe from automotive to banking and from retail to humanitarian aid.
BB: Is it fair to compare the basic functionality to Pokemon Go? – Being able to “capture” digital assets in the real world through augmented reality?
LW: Bingo. Pokémon Go! is a good comparison, as it illustrates Platin’s capabilities and market drivers. In Pokémon Go! The user hunts and captures digital assets in the wild, interacting with a rich, tangible asset — a monster — that has a fixed location on the map.
But Pokémon Go! can be fooled by installing a fake GPS application, so that people sitting in Moscow can pick up monsters in midtown Manhattan. Platin’s proof of location can enact this immersive experience, while preventing the spoofing.
Furthermore, Pokémon monsters are caught in just one way. Platin enables many ways to interact with and collect monsters– I mean, digital assets. Each asset is encased in a smart wrapper that can be customized to enact various experiences, according to need.
For example, a smart contract can require a collector to perform an action, complete a task, watch a video, or answer a question before the asset can be collected.
Digital assets can also be geofenced meaning they can only be used in a certain, pre-defined area. These customizable digital assets can provide solutions for many use cases and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual or organization.
BB: Can Proof of Location subvert the way Google, Facebook, etc. use and collect location data?
LW: Many companies use blanket consent to access and sell location data from their users. That robs individuals of the choice to share, sell, or hide their personal location data. With Platin, individuals can take back control of their location data. Platin allows each person to decide how much information they will share and with whom even giving them the option to profit from their location information the way big companies do currently.
That said, we cannot stop people from giving location data to GAFA. We see the recent changes due to GDPR as a step in a good direction. At the same time, cyber attacks are rendering such broad data collection as “toxic” and a liability, driving corporations towards data minimization, selective disclosure and progressive trust privacy-enhancements.
BB: How might Starbucks use a commercial airdrop using Platin?
LW: Platin is the ultimate foot traffic generator. Say, for example, there is a location where Starbucks patronage is slow during the hours of 2 to 4 PM. Starbucks can create branded tokens that are geofenced to only be redeemed at that single location and only during those slow hours. The tokens can be given a specific value and sprinkled in a high-traffic area. If tokens aren’t collected, they go right back into Starbucks’ virtual wallet, allowing them to be redistributed later.
Or maybe Starbucks is planning a big launch of a new Frappuccino. They want to leverage social media and generate a more organic buzz than the standard marketing campaign would.
The Starbucks social team creates a digital version of the frapp with a smart contract wrapper saying that the user needs to share their token collection on their social channel and show that post to a barista to receive a free Frappuccino. Suddenly, social feeds are flooded with people finding frapps in the wild, collecting them, and redeeming them for a delicious new drink.
Starbucks could even partner with influencers to make sure drops are picked up by people who will make a big impact.
BB: What exactly is “proof of location” and how does zero-knowledge proof work?
LW: The location-based services market is projected to grow into between a 10 and 40-billion-dollar market by 2020. This projection is based on current state-of-the-art which means insecure location claims with fake GPS applications that are freely available.
Secure location claims have the potential to impact countless industries. For example, one online financial services provider working with Platin reported that 80% of their registrants abandon the process once they are required to provide proof of residence. Delivering a secure, digital way to prove a location claim can reduce that figure.
Secure proof of location is made possible via smartphones running Platin’s secure protocol. We harness traditional location protocols (GPS and fraud detection) along with incentivized distributed ledger technology (DLT) to mitigate and prevent spoofing that plagues Pokémon Go! and other AR/MR applications. In addition, our system’s verifications conform with the standards-based approach of the World Wide Web, ensuring broad adoption of this protocol.
The protocol uses three completely different methods of ascertaining, validating and cross-checking location data–we call them the three pillars of security.
The first pillar refers to sensor fusion. Platin makes use of on-device, location-relevant sensors such as GNSS (e.g., GPS, Galileo), Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular-network observations. Both Android and iOS allow for these sensors to be “fused” in a robust manner to counter simple spoofing attacks.
Behavior Over Time, the second pillar, is the analysis of user behavior over longer periods of time. This enables anomaly detection techniques via advanced machine learning algorithms, particularly reinforcement learning, and return an assurance that the history of behavior is within expected ranges.
The third and final pillar is “Peer-to-Peer Witnessing,” an application of decentralized blockchain techniques that enables users to act as witnesses for each others’ locations through the use of short-range communication techniques such as Bluetooth, WiFi, ultrasound, and camera. Platin envisions that most of this interaction happens without any user involvement.
The children’s “Where’s Waldo?” illustrated book series helps us to understand [zero-knowledge]. In these books a distinctively dressed man appears only once on each page, wearing a striped hat. Readers are asked to scour the page and locate him. We can understand the three enablers by examining Where’s Waldo one step at a time.
●A Secret: For the new reader, Waldo’s location is a secret. The illustrator knows it, and the reader doesn’t. The reader is encouraged to search the page and find Waldo, but that is a difficult task. Some readers give up and ask someone who has already found Waldo to show them his location. In essence, they are asking another reader to reveal the secret. Once found, a reader could keep the information secret by circling Waldo in red and storing the book in a safe. This amounts to storing the secret for future use. Secrets are essential to crypto. They are usually called keys, and they must be managed carefully.
●A Difficult Task: Waldo is difficult to find on the page. The reader has to search everywhere and mistakenly identify many Waldo look-alike characters before reaching a satisfactory conclusion and finding him. Yet when he is finally discovered, or someone points Waldo out, it’s easy to see where he is. That’s why it’s a fun task. This difference between the difficulty of conducting the task and the ease of verifying the task lies at the heart of cryptographic enablers.
●A Zero-Knowledge Enabler: Can you prove you found Waldo without revealing the secret of his actual location on the page? There is a simple way to do so. Take a rectangular piece of white cardboard that is much larger than the book. Cut a hole exactly fitting Waldo to reveal his silhouette only, nothing else. You can now show Waldo to anyone, peeking out of the cardboard. Yet the cardboard is wide and opaque, hiding the book thoroughly, so a verifier has no idea where Waldo is on the page. The puzzle was solved, and someone verified the achievement, without revealing any knowledge of how to solve the puzzle. The secret is still safe, the task still just as difficult as before.
The “white cardboard” enables the zero-knowledge proof. In Platin, the “white cardboard” is a mathematical equation that hides the user’s exact location.
BB: Your ICO launches this week, but are you worried about ICO fatigue in the space?
LW: It can be concerning, watching the market stall the way it has and entering bear-like hibernation. However, without sounding too full of ourselves, we really believe we’re creating something lasting and revolutionary.
Cryptocurrency isn’t going away, and neither is blockchain. By giving people a secure and tangible way to collect, share, and use digital assets, we are opening the world up to a multitude of possibilities. People have been recognizing this in our project, and it’s brought a big wave of enthusiasm. We are in this for the long haul, and our supporters really gravitate toward that approach.
BB: Platin also introduces a token, PTNX, can you explain its utility?
LW: The PTNX protocol token is the gas that powers the proof of location system.
The power of incentives in Platin’s Proof of Location protocol is one of the foundational insights that led to us founding Platin. Incentives are based on game theory models. They both encourage actors to nurture Platin’s strong, safe, peer-to-peer operation and discourage bad actors by punishing those who act maliciously.
Let’s examine some of the players in the Platin ecosystem and how they use and are incentivized by this token:
●An “airdropper,” someone placing an airdrop–needs to provide PTNX to fuel and power the system.
●A “claimer,” someone claiming an airdrop. This person triggers the system to use the PTNX funded by the airdropper. It flows through the system incentivizing nodes participating in the proof of location process.
●An “adjuticator,” a node adjudicating a proof of location claim gets paid PTNX in exchange for this service.
●A node committing blocks to the Platin Plexus gets paid PTNX in exchange for his service to the system.
●A peer-to-peer witness gets paid in PTNX in exchange for the service of enhancing the proof of location claim.
BB: Can you tell us about your history in the cryptocurrency space and how it lead to Platin?
LW: My experience with cryptocurrency and blockchain began back in 2011. I was working at Cisco Secure Video with some of the world’s leading cryptographers,included the inventor of Public Key Cryptography himself, Prof. Adi Shamir.
We were all aware of bitcoin and admired its innovative structure, but did not see it as having any application to our business. It wasn’t until two years later that I got an opportunity to professionally re-engage with its technology when I participated in a special request on behalf of the Internet Identity Workshop to lead a committee and investigate blockchain’s suitability to forming a distributed identity system.
This work was done in close association with Doc Searls, Joyce Searls and other doyens of the Identity space. That committee led to the spawning of an industry (e.g., Evernym, Sovrin) and I became fascinated with the potential of this new way of working. Even then, I had no direct application in my day-to-day work. Until I discovered that my colleague and friend, Allon was similarly fascinated by it.
I hung out with Mason at Cornell University alumni events–we both studied there–and I always admired his drive and passion for the projects he developed over the years, particularly XPLace an online marketplace with hundreds of thousands of users and multi-million dollar annual turnover. We soon converged on the idea of making the coins more real, more tangible, more LOCATED, and Platin was born.
Platin piques interest for its playful use of real-world cryptocurrency airdrops and augmented reality. But there’s something more powerful going on here too. The platform threatens to disrupt the way we think about location services, making them altogether more secure and private.
We’ve heard it hundreds of times. Blockchain is Web 3.0 or Geekdom’s latest marvel. Entrepreneurs, or business owners, who capitalize on this technology when young make it rich. Innovators like Ripple turned a $10,000 investment into $1.5 million in five years. Binance, only a year old, has a market cap of $840.8 million, according to Coinmarketcap. So it’s understandable that you’d speculate about launching your own business blockchain. You may not want to innovate anything, but, hey, blockchain’s said to be the next Revolution. Blockchain fanatics say it’s a core differentiator and value driver, leading you, if you have a business, to quite likely think maybe you should jump on board.
Brian Winker’s take on blockchain for business
Sometime last year, I interviewed Brian Winkers, founder of blockchain money automation company bitlov.com that won first place in the 2015 StartUp Chile! Competition.
Winkers himself is an open-source developer and Bitcoin analyst who has been playing around with crypto projects since 2012 and has helped small and medium-sized businesses get on or, rather, more often, off the blockchain.
For Winkers, blockchain for small business is a bonkers idea, largely because of Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s platform has problems with scalability: The platform is slow – around ten transactions per second compared to Visa’s 5,000 to 8,000 transactions in the same time span. The ledger became congested. The company itself struggles with internal squabbling.
Truth is Bitcoin is competing with more scalable and less problematic platforms like Ethereum and IOTA, so businesses can profit from blockchain more than was possible, say, ten years ago.
The problem is the expense.
Blockchain technology is free if you want to do all the work. The problem is recruiting a blockchain developer, and that’s where the trouble starts. As of 2018, a decent blockchain developer costs anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 at the very least. Forget the fly-by-night freelancer from a platform like Elance, Guru or the like. Actually employing someone from such a platform would likely cost you more, since you may have to pay for errors. Any coding error or slight mishap means the ledger needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch, aside from which technological changes occur so rapidly that top blockchain developers regularly familiarize themselves with updates.
Want a top developer? Expect to pay $250,000-$450,000 for a whiz, or triple that for a world-class specialist, according to Pavel Supronov on Medium. You think blockchain saves you money? According to John Levine, crypto consultant, author, and speaker, blockchain is the most expensive database ever invented.
Is your blockchain for innovation?
To get some ROI from your blockchain investment, you need some really BIG idea that’s stupendously different than competitors and that delights hordes of people. (Think of a Ripple or Binance). Such a feat, according to Winkers, is performed by only two out of every hundred ICOs or startups.
“In all my years,” Winkers told me, “I’ve only found one ICO that makes sense, and that’s the one I’m with right now. A Russian company called Visor looking to create a payment coin. I’m providing some technical guidance, more on the architecture side. I think they have a good team that understands the need to meet the underlying business needs. It’s not about them having a big payday.”
I regularly tell businesses not to proceed with Bitcoin, but to focus on more conventional solutions. I try to help them customize their business, figure out what they can do. Unfortunately, most people who approach me are dazzled by Bitcoin and the ledger. They don’t understand it… but just about everyone’s doing it so they want on the bandwagon. Now if they’d have a wonderful remarkable useful idea that may be one thing, but they often emerge with impractical, unfeasible ‘solutions’, so it’s a waste of their time and money.
At the end of the day, if your mind is on blockchain for fame or money, Winkers doubts you’ll succeed. You’ll want to have a solid idea that makes sense and that lasts for decades.
Blockchain to save you money?
How about if you don’t want to innovate but are sold by the blockchain hype and want blockchain to expedite your business? Say, you’ve read reports like that by management consulting giant Accenture and McLagan who insisted that blockchain promises cost savings of 70 percent or more in finance areas? Or you read the 2014 EY report how blockchain-based businesses outpace competitors?
Well, blockchains have certain problems that you’d want to know about…
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce – recently released a report for beginners to blockchain and business owners often tempted by new technology.
The report pointed out that blockchain can’t control users’ conduct. The NIST also highlighted the misconception that blockchain is “trustless” – you need a great deal of trust in the technology, developers, and user cooperation for the blockchain to function. Further, users must manage their own private keys that, once lost, are harder to recover than usernames or passwords on centralized platforms.
Additionally, blockchains are massively inefficient. Set up a blockchain and you’ll need each and every user to archive, and constantly update, a complete history of all that’s happened on that blockchain.
Finally, but not conclusively, blockchains also require a computational challenge to restrict the creation of new blocks. If it’s too easy, hackers could temporarily mobilize enough computing power to rewrite history; if it’s too hard, each new block will consume megawatts of electricity. And electricity for blockchain costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
On the other hand…
As we speak, blockchain improves all the time. More modern technologies produce decentralized platforms that have more bandwidth, are faster, more convenient, easier to program. IOTA, for example, uses a “blockchain” that isn’t the traditional format but a new one called Tangle that knocks out the expense and time of mining. IOTA transactions are super-fast and process several transactions simultaneously. Its structure perfectly suits the Internet of Things (IoT), where products and appliances like cars, home appliances and machinery “tangle”. Businesses on “next generation” blockchains like IOTA report a smooth, fast and cheap experience that almost resembles that of the Web.
So to blockchain or not to blockchain?
A unanimous decision tree floating the Web may resolve your problem.
Ask yourself the following:
If you need a database, are all the writers or participants on your team known and trusted? Is there anything you need to hide? Do you need to hire, or involve, trusted third parties? Do you need to control functionality? Are your transactions private? If your answers are a flat “no” to each of these questions, either stick to a standard database or use a public blockchain.
Does more than one participant need to be able to update the data? Do you need to hire third-parties whom you’re unsure whether you can trust? Do you have any confidential data? Do you and all the updates on your team barely know one another or have some qualms of one or more users? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, use a permissioned or hybrid blockchain.
Does the data need to be kept private? Do you need to control who can make changes to the blockchain software? Do you have the money for blockchain programming and continuous maintenance and upgrades? Consider a private blockchain.
Even then Winkers would tell you to mull your decisions carefully.
“I’ve always worked to make sure that small businesses aren’t taken advantage of by others in the technical fields,” he told me, “And that includes blockchain. For some it’s the right path, for others, it’s a costly diversion.”
“ICO companies that invest in blockchain have a 98% failure rate. That’s not the route,” Brian insisted, ”that I’d want to take.”
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