Twitter comes under fire from McAfee

John McAfee, the bitcoin buccaneer, has grabbed the headlines again this week, but this time it is in a good cause rather than a self-serving one.

Earlier this week Ryan Smith at CCN revealed that a scammer was impersonating John McAfee on Medium. He wrote, “The so-called “McAfee Crypto Extravaganza” promises mouth-watering 10x returns — if and only if — you deposit a small amount of Bitcoin or Ethereum in the attacker’s wallet first.”

CCN alerted McAfee’s wife Janice to the scam and she posted on Twitter that it was a fraud. It was clear that the scammer had gone to some lengths to create two cleverly crafted phishing sites and the fraudulent pages even go so far as to fake Bitcoin transactions and mimic BTC block explorers.

It wasn’t long before John McAfee stepped up to add his view of the situation, and he took aim at Twitter for what he sees as its lax approach to bitcoin scams.

McAfee told CCN: “This happens three or four times a day where people pretending to be me on various platforms, attempt to scam people using a variety of scams. On my Twitter account everyone of my tweets are peppered with comments from people pretending to be me and attempting to get people to send Bitcoin or Ethereum in exchange for a larger amount. I no longer bother to report them to Twitter because I never get a response.”

You can understand his anger and frustration. As Ryan Smith commented, “Twitter has the paradoxical reputation of being both incredibly resourceful and annoyingly frustrating. Influencers find it increasingly difficult to wade through the information swamp only to interact with their genuine followers.”

And as CCN reveals, scammers will even use Pope Francis for an “Official BTC Giveaway”. Although, if anyone believes the Pope is giving away bitcoin, perhaps they also think that the moon is made of green cheese.

Over a year ago, Jack Dorsey, a big bitcoin supporter and one of the co-founders of Twitter, promised he’d take action to reduce the problem. But as CCN says, the problem seems to have got even worse. CNBC Crypto Trader host Ran Neuner recently challenged Jack Dorsey to stop wasting resources on a new user interface and do something to stop the exploitation of novice crypto users on Twitter.

Twitter may still be the leader in short form content, as Ryan Smith points out, but should another platform emerge that is scam-free, then Twitter may find its sizable community of crypto followers deserting it for a safer harbour.

Who is controlling your financial data?

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A decade ago, and even further back, none of us were aware that our personal data was so valuable. Now, we’ve certainly been made aware that companies are busy collecting as much data about each of us as they can, because the more they know about us, the more power they have over our decision making.

We know that social media channels like Facebook re focused on collecting data about our shopping habits and our political views amongst other things, and that has frightened not a few people, and angered them when they discovered the data was being sold to dark actors behind political lobbying. And while the majority of the public may be being guided by the media towards focusing on social media giants, the banks are busy collecting data about each of us as well.

And, like the social media guys, the banks want to hold on to our data; they don’t want to share it with fintech startups. Because these startups are better positioned to use the data and respond to consumer wants in a faster more flexible way. To that end, there is a battle going on by some of the biggest banks, such as JP Morgan Chase and the Silicon Valley fintechs for possession of data.

Big banks plan to stifle fintech access to data

Nizan Geslevich Packin at Forbes suggests that JP Morgan and Capital One actually have a campaign strategy to control, Silicon Valley fintech startups’ access to consumer financial data. She claims that there is a rising behind-the-scenes tension and “some banks have threatened to block fintech companies’ servers from accessing customer data, in order to improve their customer accounts’ safety and increase consumer protection.” The banks claim that this is in the consumer’s best interests because fintechs “often collect more data than they need, store it insecurely, sell it to third parties, and sometimes also get hacked, exposing account numbers and passwords.” It sounds a lot like political arguments these days, especially in countries with a two-party system, like the USA and UK.

Of course regulation and consumer protection are important; they are two of the cornerstone elements of the financial industry. And yes, cybersecurity is an issue these days, and we should be wary of sharing data with third-parties, but if anyone thinks the banks are occupying the higher moral ground and acting entirely for the benefit of the consumer, then they don’t know banks and bankers that well.

Banks claim to act for the consumer

Banks are acting in their own interest: they are afraid of the fintech newcomers who are currently taking a trickle of their customers, but that could become a major flow.

Not if the banks have their way and find a way to stop the sharing of data. As Nizan says, there are companies like Mint that provide consumers with an aggregated snapshot of their accounts from multiple financial institutions. Without access to the bank data, Mint’s business would collapse. Indeed, most fintechs are reliant on gathering traditional bank data; without it they will not be able to innovate.

The fintechs are not leaving things to chance. They are not waiting for the banks to reduces their access to APIs or stop access altogether. They are looking at technological ways to combat the banks’ blocking technology. And they are lobbying for open banking. This works by allowing fintech companies’ apps to ask consumers for permission to access their accounts, and then requiring that banks abide by that consent.

The battle between the banks and the fintechs is not confined to the USA. In Europe Payment Services Directive II encourages technological developments that disrupt existing businesses by collecting data on savings, spending, wealth management and more.

The struggle continues for control of our data, but has anyone ever asked you what you’d like to do with your financial information and who you are prepared to share it with?

Which would you bet on: John McAfee becoming US president, or eating his d**k on TV?

For many years when most people heard the name ‘McAfee’ the software that protected your computer from malware, viruses and Trojans came to mind. But, John McAfee, the man behind the anti-virus software business has given us an entirely different image to conjure up when the name is mentioned.

Who knew that the Anti-Virus King was such a maverick and such an enthusiastic user of Twitter? His announcement this week that he plans to run for President in the 2020 presidential campaign is not a great surprise, and if constant Twitter use is a qualification for the job (the current POTUS seems to think it is) then he might be a shoo in.

Not that John McAfee can actually step foot in the USA. He has fled the country and is sending out messages from his boat, which is somewhere in international waters so that the Internal Revenue Service can’t touch him. He hasn’t filed a tax return in years, so it’s no surprised that the IRS have come after him, especially since he keeps boasting about it. McAfee certainly doesn’t seem to have grasped the concept of ‘going under the radar’.

What else do we know about the man? Well, he’s a cryptocurrency fanatic to start with and he has made a lot of noise in the crypto world and attracted a large swathe of followers. He also has a fairly interesting backstory, including the fact that he was born in the UK, not the USA. His parent moved to Roanoke, Virginia when he was young and his father committed suicide when McAfee was 15.

His career in computing started after he took a job at a firm that coded punch-card systems. He then worked at a few Silicon Valley firms until the first major virus in PCs emerged and that’s when he started his anti-virus company. The company soon became one of the biggest of its type, but McAfee decided to retire in 1994 and keep a low profile.

His shares in the company netted him $100 million and he seemed set for a comfortable future, however in 2008, the financial collapse that affected the whole world also hit McAfee hard and he lost around 96% of his fortune.

And this is when he starts to reveal his maverick nature to a wider audience. He moved to Belize, but started to think he was being followed, and lost his connection with society for a while. He also had to flee the country in 2012 when he became a person of interest in a murder case that involved the death of his neighbour. He was then arrested in Guatemala for illegal entry and repatriated to the USA. And that’s when his love affair with crypto started.

In 2015 he started the Cyber Party and made his first attempt to run for president. He also got involved with MGT Technologies, a rather mysterious firm that was producing games, providing cybersecurity services and manufacturing some drugs. It’s an odd mix that gives off a strong smell of dodginess. He left her to become fully embroiled in the bitcoin world; the leading cryptocurrency being his favourite. He’s made numerous predictions, perhaps most famously his tweet that if bitcoin didn’t reach $1 million by the end of 2020 “I will eat my dick.” Which will happen first: will McAfee become president or will we see him cannibalise himself on Squawk Box at the beginning of 2021?