The case for a blockchain Universal ID

Governments have been floating the idea of a universal ID around for a while, but haven’t come to any conclusions. The case for having such a thing as a universal ID is that it would increase national security, help with counter terrorism and prevent, or at least deter, identity theft. This would all make people’s lives easier it is argued.

Naturally there are problems with the concept. There are countries like the United Kingdom that don’t believe in a national ID, and in countries that do have ID databases, like the USA, the information is held in a centralised national database, which may not be as secure as they should be.

To give you an example: in the first six months of 2018 there were 668 data breaches in the USA in sectors including banking, business, education, government/military and health care. There are weaknesses in the databases that leave them exposed to cyber attacks. And, as the cyber criminals become more sophisticated, the national ID database’s security systems simply don’t seem to be able to keep up with them. So, imagine how fortunate the cybercriminals would feel if there were a universal ID database set up on a centralised system — it would be the biggest gift they ever received.

Blockchain solves the data breach problem

The most obvious solution is the use of blockchain technology. By using a distributed ledger, each person’s ID information could be held in a decentralised system that is more secure, because it uses cryptography. For example, a wide range of identity documents could be stored on the blockchain in a single place — let’s call it an identity wallet — and each wallet could have its own form of encryption. The information would be decentralised on the distributed ledger, which makes it far harder for cybercriminals to get access to it.; it would certainly make it much harder for them to undertake the kind of mass scale identity theft attacks that they are capable of right now, because they would have to hack into each individual wallet.

Using the blockchain would also give us a s citizens more control over our data, because we would have the ability to update out data in a single space and decide what data we share with certain individuals.

Companies are already working on identity blockchain technology, however it is still in early stages and will have to be proved before presenting it to governments. Of course, even these projects raise questions, such as who is developing it, how will they monetise it and how will they maintain it. Legally, there is also an issue about who owns the information once it is uploaded to the blockchain; each individual or a government?

Although we’re not quite there yet, it is to be hoped that blockchain technology will make data breaches a thing of the past, although whether we ever see a universal ID system emerge is another matter altogether.

We are all victims of Facebook manipulation

Facebook has taken a battering recently, and what many users have spotted is that there is a massive gap between how the company operates and the PR messages it sends to the world.

Look at some of the messages that Mark Zuckerberg sent out in 2012, the year it acquired Instagram and brought Sheryl Sandberg to its boardroom table:

“Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.”

“I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.”

“At Facebook we believe that the need to open up and connect is what makes us human. It’s what brings us together. It’s what brings meaning to our lives.”

It all sounds very warm and worthy. Yet there were other things going on behind the scenes that were not so ethical, as revealed in a collection of internal Facebook emails published online by Damian Collins, a UK Member of Parliament. As Motherboard points out, the content includes exchanges between Zuckerberg and Sandberg discussing the company’s business model and how it leverages our data to make money.

Collins wrote in his summary of the documents, “Facebook knew that the changes to its policies on the Android mobile phone system, which enabled the Facebook app to collect a record of calls and texts sent by the user would be controversial,” adding, “To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard of possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app.”

He then tweeted: “I believe there is considerable public interest in releasing these documents. They raise important questions about how Facebook treats users data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market.”

Essentially, the internal emails include details on the distribution of Facebook’s various apps. They reveal how the company worked very closely with some app developers to give them access to user data, and how the company specifically incentivizes sharing on the platform in order to feed that data back to advertisers. The emails also include information about how the company tried to hide and downplay the amount of data that it collected from the Android version of the Facebook app.

Needless to say, Facebook has responded by saying that the emails “are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context.”

Of course, we can’t blame Facebook for wanting to make a profit, but as Colin Horgan writes, “These emails, however, reveal a core dissonance between the idea Facebook sought to market to its billion-plus users for years, and how those users were leveraged in a business sense.”

Facebook users thought they were part of an idealistic project, when in fact they were being used for much darker purposes, as the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed. The fact that the UK’s parliament is exposing the media giant on its website indicates the extent of the distaste for how Facebook conducts its affairs.

One thing is for sure, as Facebook users we do not have an equal relationship with the company, as it has promoted; instead it is entirely based on inequality, because, ultimately, Facebook has benefited a lot more than its users have.

Crypto buyers need to take the long view

Are you a crypto investor? Perhaps you bought in during the later part of 2017, or even early 2018, hoping the wave of euphoria around cryptocurrencies would keep carrying on. Unfortunately for those people it didn’t, and even those who bought in earlier will have made some losses.

A number of people thought the downturn in the market was temporary; it would be moving upwards again before Christmas 2018 some market watchers said, with a some of the bulls, like Tom Lee, predicting a bitcoin value of over $20,000. It hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t mean that it is the end of bitcoin or other cryptos. What has happened is that the technology needs to catch up with the enthusiasm for digital assets, but technology is still too new and complicated, most consumers see it as too risky. Plus, there is the not inconsiderable matter of mass adoption being some way down the road.

So, what should crypto investors do, or have done in the past year. Some are holding on, waiting for the return of a bull market, while others are looking for an acceptable moment in which to exit the market.

Crypto investing has been a bit of an education for those people who have never put money into stocks, bonds or securities before. It offered an opportunity for those with a few hundred, or a few thousand, to become involved in a market that up until now has been reserved for approved investors; those with millions and billions in the bank. However, newbie crypto investors didn’t perhaps realise that all markets are a dangerous place to be in unless you do your homework and have certain ‘safety jackets’ in place.

If you look at the established investment markets, they all have a swathe of regulations in place that give the investor specific ownership rights. By contrast, the crypto market is uncharted territory. There have been some moves by regulatory bodies to create a set of regulations and guidelines, but they are still sketchy, and the judicial system has not yet weighed in to give its approval of regulations in a number of jurisdictions.

For that reason, cryptocurrency investors have few, or no, rights until a government and its legislature says so. There are investors who are hoping the price of a crypto can be pumped, which would be a disastrous move, because manipulation will lead regulatory bodies like the SEC to deem a token is a security, and if it is, then the project issuing the token must go through a lengthy and expensive process to register it as a security, at least that is the case in the USA. For many projects that would spell the end.

People buying into crypto need to be patient and think in the long-term, because there are no instant wins now. As Joseph P. DiPasquale writes: “Now more than ever, cryptocurrency purchasers need to support projects with strong fundamentals: competent, capable leadership; a track record of meeting roadmap milestones; unique technical goals and achievements; a broad potential user base; and a relatable vision of the future.”

How to hold an ICO in 2019

Once upon a time, people holding ICOs didn’t give too much thought to regulations, because there weren’t really any to follow, but in 2018 and beyond, they need to keep rules and regulations at the front of their minds.

ICOs started in 2013 with Mastercoin, swiftly followed by the Ethereum ICO promising smart contracts and the ERC20 token standard, both of which encouraged investors. Things were fine it seemed until 2016 and the DAO ICO, which raised $50 million, but then had its funds hacked. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that DAO should have been considered a security and it wasn’t long after that that China banned ICOs, calling them illegal. However, what happened in China wasn’t followed elsewhere and ICOs continued to flourish, reaching their zenith in January 2018.

However, as 2018 passed by, we saw ICOs decrease, and a more regulated environment is one of the most likely reasons for that. We also saw a shift to a different type of ICO investor. Whereas in previous years, ICOs appealed to the man or woman in the street who would take a punt on a new project, this group dropped away and the institutional investors started to take their place. Old venture capital also made way for new crypto and blockchain-related VC firms that were focused on projects using the emerging technology. One report by

Autonomous Next indicates that VC funds invested $1.6 billion in blockchain projects in August 2018 alone. Meanwhile, funds raised by ICOs has been falling throughout 2018 and in Q3 the number of ICOs raising over $1 million had halved compared with the end of Q2.

Where is the best place to hold an ICO?

Places where there are clear guidelines for ICOs and favourable regulations are obviously the ones to choose if you’re planning a new coin offering. The two most important things to consider first are:

1. How can we safely conduct an ICO?

2. Can the project operate legally after the ICO and will licences etc be needed?

Europe is one of the regions most favourable to ICOs as it isn’t rushing to impose regulations. As long as projects follow KYC and AML rules –until some other rules come along –these are the most important regulations in Europe. Switzerland is one of the more friendly environments in Europe and in February 2018, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, FINMA,issued a set of guidelines for ICO projects, which stated, “Each case should be decided on its individual merits.” Gibraltar is also high on the list and the UK has not really made a decision about firm ICO regulations yet, and looks at ICOs on a case by case basis.

To put it in a nutshell: if you’re planning an ICO, look for a favourable jurisdiction, make sure you comply with its regulations plus KYC and AML, and if you need a special licence because you’re in the fintech space, make sure you put yourself in a good position to get one.