HRF, the New York-based nonprofit that promotes and protects human rights globally, has launched a fund to support Bitcoin developers who make the Bitcoin network more private, decentralized and resilient. The first grant, worth close to $50,000, has been gifted to London-based Bitcoin developer Chris Belcher to realize an implementation of his CoinSwap protocol. A second grant of the same size will be announced soon.
“At the moment, the Bitcoin network is improving but is far from as usable and private as it needs to be with authoritarianism and surveillance on the rise in many countries,” said Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Foundation. “With more support, developers like Chris can make it possible for activists to receive donations and continue their important work under increased pressure.”
A Grant to Make Bitcoin More Private
The Human Rights Foundation was founded in 2005 by Venezuelan film producer and human rights advocate Thor Halvorssen Mendoza, and is currently chaired by Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. It has been a strong advocate for Bitcoin and its privacy features for some time, with Gladstein in particular frequently promoting the digital currency as a financial tool for human rights activists, civil society organizations and journalists living under oppressive regimes.
“Human rights defenders and reporters around the world face increasing financial repression in the form of frozen bank accounts, restrictions on foreign funding, payment surveillance and general difficulty in earning income or receiving donations,” Gladstein said. “Bitcoin can be a powerful tool for them to use moving forward alongside encrypted messaging apps like Signal and projects like Tor Browser and SecureDrop.”
The Human Rights Foundation was contacted last week by a private individual (who preferred not to have their name disclosed) who heard of the Human Rights Foundation and Gladstein’s work on Bitcoin, and wished to donate $100,000 to Bitcoin development. The money was gifted with no strings attached, trusting that the foundation would find a good home for it. The HRF in turn wanted to award two Bitcoin projects in line with the organization’s own goals.
To pick the recipients, the Human Rights Foundation conducted an informal poll among Bitcoin privacy experts to find two projects that are furthering Bitcoin’s privacy, decentralization and resilience. Belcher and his recent CoinSwap proposal came up as a unanimous suggestion, Gladstein said.
“CoinSwap stands out because, if a robust mobile wallet could be developed with native integration, it would give transacting parties a much higher degree of privacy and protection from chain analysis,” he explained.
How CoinSwap Can Improve Bitcoin Privacy
CoinSwap is a privacy technique first proposed in 2013 by former Bitcoin Core developer and Blockstream cofounder Gregory Maxwell. Leveraging Atomic Swaps, the trick that also enables the Lightning Network, users can essentially exchange coins without revealing any link between the exchanged coins, and without the swap being identifiable as such on the Bitcoin blockchain.
If done right, that is.
Belcher, one of the world’s foremost experts in Bitcoin privacy, recently published a detailed outline of how the CoinSwap technique could, in fact, be done right. The developer — who previously authored the Bitcoin privacy guide and helmed development of both JoinMarket and the Electrum Personal Server — addressed a range of potential privacy leaks, and envisioned a JoinMarket-type of liquidity market to mix coins. (Additional solutions include multi-transaction swaps to counter amount correlation, transaction routing to avoid single points of trust for privacy and fidelity bonds to make denial-of-service attacks costly.)
A working CoinSwap implementation would represent another big step forward for Bitcoin privacy. Although tools like CoinJoin are out there, and do offer privacy, these do often still reveal that the tools themselves were used. CoinSwap transactions, in contrast, could be made indistinguishable from regular transactions. This not only benefits CoinSwap users themselves, but everyone else too, as blockchain analysts could no longer safely assume that regular-looking transactions were in fact regular transactions — they might just as well have been CoinSwap transactions.
“The Human Rights Foundation teaches activists in authoritarian countries how to use cypherpunk technology like Signal, encryption and more… and a lot of these activists also have a use for Bitcoin because they keep getting banned from having bank accounts,” Belcher told Bitcoin Magazine. “Obviously if they used Bitcoin without privacy, their governments can spy on their transactions and cause them problems. Privacy tools like CoinSwap can help with that.”
Belcher plans to realize his CoinSwap protocol both as a standalone application and a software library that other wallets can use to add it as a feature. He will be developing it as a software project to which anyone can contribute, and hopes to have a minimal viable product ready in about six to nine months.
“The Human Rights Foundation fund directly helps the CoinSwap project,” Belcher said. “Sometimes I would do freelance coding work unrelated to Bitcoin when I needed the money. With grants and donations like this I won’t need to do that, and can instead just focus on the CoinSwap project and Bitcoin privacy.”
More Bitcoin Privacy Development to Come
The fund’s second gift, also worth close to $50,000, has already been earmarked for another developer, who’s working on strengthening Bitcoin pseudonymity at the network level, and will be announced by the Human Rights Foundation in the near future.
The grants represent the first donations to Bitcoin development from a human rights group, and some of the first from a non-profit organization. Adding to several for-profit companies that fund Bitcoin development, Gladstein hopes that more non-profits will follow in the future, adding to the diversification of the Bitcoin development ecosystem.
“In today’s world, Bitcoin developers are often free agents, relying almost exclusively on the generosity of exchanges and corporations,” said Gladstein. “Hopefully, HRF’s fund can inspire other organizations in the non-profit and academic space to support Bitcoin research and software development.”
Moving forward, the organization will continue to raise support for Bitcoin development on a rolling basis via a crowdfunding campaign. Any donations will be used to support individuals or teams working on specific projects to help improve the Bitcoin network. The fund will aim to support worthy projects on an ongoing basis. Ninety-five percent of donations will go directly to the winning developers, while 5 percent will support the foundation’s human rights advocacy in general.
Proposals for future grants from the Human Rights Foundation can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Belcher also accepts donations for his CoinSwap development on his own funding page.
The post The Human Rights Foundation Is Now Funding Bitcoin Privacy Development, Starting With CoinSwap appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
U.S. Treasury Targets Stablecoins in Latest Regulatory Risk Assessment
As regulatory pressure mounts in the U.S., policymakers are putting stablecoins at the top of their agendas.
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg has reported that officials are crafting a policy framework set to be released in the coming weeks. Their primary concern is ensuring that investors can reliably move money in and out of tokens, it added.
The anonymous insiders are worried that a “fire-sale run on crypto assets could threaten financial stability and that certain stablecoins could scale up dangerously fast.”
Strengthening Regulatory Efforts
The Financial Stability Oversight Council is also preparing a formal review into whether stablecoins pose an economic threat.
The officials are focusing on how stablecoin transactions are processed and settled and whether market conditions have an impact, it added. Tomicah Tillemann, global head of policy at a crypto fund run by venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz, commented:
“It is significant and very consequential that we are witnessing early steps to create a regulatory framework around digital assets. That’s a big deal.”
The report, when released, will go to the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets. The body includes key agency heads such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, and Securities and Exchange Commissioner Chair Gary Gensler.
In late July, Yellen called for urgency in regulating stablecoins after stating that they are not adequately supervised. Gary Gensler echoed the sentiment in early August, stating that regulators must act to protect investors from fraud.
Also, in late July, Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Michael Hsu, said regulators are looking into Tether’s commercial papers to see whether each USDT token was really backed by the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.
Tether has repeatedly issued assurances that its reserves are fully backed but has yet to produce a full independent audit.
Stablecoin Ecosystem Update
Tether remains the market leader with a current supply of 69.4 billion, according to the Tether Transparency report. This is close to the all-time high for USDT, which tapped 70 billion earlier this week.
Of that total, 36 billion or 51.8% is based on the Tron network, with 33.8 billion or 48.7% running on Ethereum. USDT supply has grown by 232% since the beginning of the year.
Rival stablecoin, USDC, from Circle currently has 29.3 billion in circulation after gaining 651% in terms of supply growth so far in 2021.
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Cardano, Chainlink, MATIC Price Analysis: 19 September
Most altcoins in the market have been consolidating or recording losses over the last 24 hours. Cardano fell by 3% and inched closer to the support line of $2.20. Chainlink also depreciated by 5% and was trading closer to its three-week low price. Lastly, MATIC was seen moving closer to its one-week low price of $1.29 after registering a loss of 5% over the past day.
Cardano lost 3% of its valuation over the last 24 hours. The altcoin was priced at $2.33. Over the last few days, ADA has been consolidating. The nearest support line for the coin stood at $2.20 and then at $1.72.
On the four-hour 20-SMA the alt’s price was seen below it, indicating that the momentum belonged to the sellers. The Relative Strength Index was below the 50-mark. The Chaikin Money Flow also was seen below the half-line as capital inflows were low.
MACD witnessed a bearish crossover and flashed red bars on its histogram. If ADA moved on the upside, the first resistance mark stood at $2.49, toppling which it could retest $2.79. The other price ceiling stood at the multi-month high of $3.04.
Chainlink was priced at $27.80 after it recorded a loss of 5% over the last 24 hours. LINK’s nearest price floor was at $27.78. Falling below which the coin could trade near its three-week low of $24.45.
Parameters pointed towards negative price action. On the four-hour chart, LINK’s price was below the 20-SMA. This reading suggested price momentum was inclined towards the sellers. The Relative Strength Index was below the half-line.
Awesome Oscillator flashed red signal bars. MACD also displayed red bars on its histogram. On the flipside, once buying pressure revives, the altcoin could attempt to retest the $32.37 resistance mark and then revisit $35.83.
MATIC depreciated by 5% and was trading at $1.39. The altcoin’s immediate support line was at $1.29 which also is the one-week low price level. The other price floor was at its over a month-long low price point of $1.07.
Bollinger Bands converged, indicating that price volatility would remain low over the upcoming trading sessions. MACD was bearish with red bars on its histogram. The Relative Strength Index was also seen below the half-line.
MATIC’s movement on the upside could mean that the coin would meet with its first resistance at $1.42 and then at $1.54. Toppling over these levels, the coin could revisit its multi-month high of $1.76.
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The Crypto Mining Fight in China Is Not Over
It looks like China is still not done clamping down on the crypto mining space. Another region known as the Hebei province has agreed to comply with Beijing’s ruling that all crypto mining should be omitted from China’s workforce. The province is now claiming that the practice is illegal and must end within its borders no later than September 30.
China Is Still Kicking Miners Out
China shocked the world not too long ago when it decided that all crypto mining should cease. The idea was that energy used for crypto mining purposes was hazardous to the planet, and that it was setting humans on the wrong path. Thus, regulators stated that it was time to bring things to an official end.
What was most surprising about the ruling is that the country, at the time, was home to nearly 75 percent of the world’s total crypto mining operations. Thus, it stood to lose a lot of money and tax revenue by initiating the clampdown. In addition, the country is home to two of the world’s biggest developers and distributors of bitcoin mining equipment in Bitmain and Canaan Creative.
Nevertheless, China has moved forward in its decision. Many mining operators were forced to shut down their businesses and move elsewhere, and quite a few have popped up in countries such as Kazakhstan and in states like Texas and Florida. Both these regions in America have stated they are open to crypto mining projects given that they can potentially lead to healthier local and state economies, and they will create jobs for interested workers.
The Hebei province issued the following statement:
Cryptocurrency mining consumes an enormous amount of energy, which is against China’s ‘carbon neutral’ goal.
The arguments against crypto mining have become rather prominent in recent months. One of the most notable stemmed from Elon Musk, the South African entrepreneur behind billion-dollar companies such as SpaceX and Tesla. He stated early in the year that he was willing to permit bitcoin payments for electric vehicles. A few weeks later, however, he rescinded this decision, claiming that miners were not utilizing their energy correctly, and he could not condone bitcoin unless carbon emissions were brought down.
Too Much Bad Energy in the Air!
Another argument came from Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank” fame. The billionaire investor claimed that he would no longer be purchasing any BTC mined in China given that the country was not known to utilize green energy for mining purposes. China later took this issue to heart, it seems.
Starting in October of this year, bitcoin and crypto mining in China will be completely illegal. Regulators in the nation have stated that they will keep a close eye on the mining space and will work to punish all those who disobey the rules.
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