wtorek, 11 marca 2014
The Bitcoin Foundation is adding to its ranks as regulators around the world struggle with how to oversee the evolving world of digital currency.
The foundation announced on Tuesday that it had hired Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian research group the Cato Institute, as global policy counsel. Mr. Harper will act as a liaison to governments around the world for the foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group that has previously met with federal regulators in an effort to push for a broader understanding and adoption of Bitcoin.
“Like many in the Bitcoin community, he is passionate about doing his part in achieving Bitcoin’s social and economic potential,” a spokeswoman for the foundation, Jinyoung Lee Englund, said in an email.
Mr. Harper’s appointment with the foundation is effective immediately. He will remain at Cato in the reduced role of a senior fellow.
In addition to Mr. Harper, the foundation announced it had hired Amy Weiss as a consultant, bringing the group’s total number of full-time employees to eight, all of whom are paid in Bitcoin. Ms. Weiss has previously served as a White House deputy press secretary under Bill Clinton and as vice president of public affairs for the United Nations Foundation.
The hirings come at a turning point in the world of computer-driven virtual currency, as regulators weigh how to manage a rapidly evolving marketplace with no central regulator or authority. The announcements came the same day as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s self-regulator, issued aninvestor alert warning of Bitcoin’s risks.
“As with so many other ‘hot’ or new trends, fraudsters may see the latest digital currency trend as a chance to steal your money through old-fashioned fraud,” the warning stated.
Last month, the Bitcoin community was rattled by the collapse of Mt. Gox, which was at one point the largest online Bitcoin exchange.
Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States on Sunday after announcing that nearly 750,000 of its customers’ Bitcoins, worth close to $500 million, had gone missing. The company has also filed for bankruptcy in Japan.
The bankruptcy brought even more scrutiny to a fledgling currency that already has some regulators worried about its potential use in drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Federal prosecutors are currently investigating Silk Road, the now-defunct online marketplace accused of aiding money laundering and other illicit transactions.
Authorities in other countries are also struggling with just how to oversee Bitcoin. Russia, for example, has banned the currency altogether, while other countries, including Germany, have generally favored the new technology.
Mr. Harper previously served as a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. He was already a member of the Bitcoin Foundation before his appointment as global policy counsel, and he has made it clear that he favors integrating Bitcoin into existing regulation rather than creating new rules specific to virtual currency.
“Technology-specific regulation is generally eschewed by most people,” Mr. Harper said on Tuesday. “So the idea that Bitcoin should be specifically regulated doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Back in time
Back to the future
Trust... and the ability to not trust
Distributed, not centralized
poniedziałek, 10 marca 2014
Sebuh Honarchian, a developer from Los Angeles, showed up at the South By Southwest Interactive trade show in Austin, Texas on Saturday because he heard there would be a Bitcoin ATM and he needed to pay rent. He found the machine in a corner of the trade floor, flashed it a QR code on his phone, and retrieved $3,000 — less than five BTC at current prices.
"I just cashed my Bitcoin out because I need to pay some bills, you know I got rent and other things," he tells The Verge. "You have to cash out your Bitcoin sometimes whenever you need to spend it. These machines make it really easy."
There are at least three companies making ATMs designed for Bitcoin, the virtual currency that approximates cash on the internet. Two of the models only dispense Bitcoin, but one is capable of dispensing US dollars as well. That model is made by Robocoin, a startup based in Las Vegas, and it’s about the size of a vending machine. There are now at least four of them in Austin, one in Vancouver, and three in Edmonton, all of which were installed in the last three weeks.
The Robocoin ATM is relatively convenient compared to what people had to do before, which was show up at a trading event or use a website like LocalBitcoins to find someone nearby who would meet up and trade. You can also buy Bitcoin online, but that can take weeks to process.
The ATM experience is far from seamless, however. To use it, you must submit your phone number, a PIN, a government ID, a palm vein scan, and let it take your photo. This is to comply with anti-money laundering laws that require money services businesses to keep certain records on their customers. Cashing out Bitcoin can take up to 15 minutes because the currency is designed so that every transaction must be verified by users in the network. The price of Bitcoin is also higher at the ATM than it is online, because of the convenience of using cash as well as the fees charged by the operators.
THE ATM EXPERIENCE IS FAR FROM SEAMLESS
A Robocoin ATM is a pretty hefty investment for operators. It costs $25,000 for the hardware, then an additional $25,000 to $75,000 in "float," or cash to stock it. Mike Piri bought three. He put one in the bar Handlebar, one in the coffee shop Dominican Joe’s, and one in the convention center for SXSW. In a little over two weeks, they’ve processed more than 400 transactions, he says, mostly from people buying Bitcoin.
As we spoke, people stopped to gawk at the machine, snapping pictures, tapping on the screen. One gentleman bought a little Bitcoin "just for fun." Another snorted as he walked by, reading the signs on the machine and saying, "‘Buy Bitcoin, sell Bitcoin.’ There should be a button that says ‘hack Bitcoin.’"
The virtual currency has been trading at between $600 and $700 apiece at the time of this writing, despite a flurry of bad publicity in the past few weeks. A reporter forNewsweek claims to have unmasked the creator of Bitcoin, revealing a humble Japanese man living in California. The proof is far from conclusive, but the story stirred up new debate about Bitcoin’s viability and took some of the sexiness out of its creation myth. The week before, the largest Bitcoin exchange announced it’s filing for bankruptcy after losing $400 million worth of coins, possibly due to theft from hackers. And earlier this month, a prominent Bitcoin entrepreneur was arrested for money laundering.
"THERE SHOULD BE A BUTTON THAT SAYS ‘HACK BITCOIN.’"
Piri, who runs a company called Bitcoin Agents with his brother Reza, believes the machines will make him money. He discovered he could make money off Bitcoin when he noticed a $100 discrepancy in price between two websites and arbitraged it. The ATMs will make Bitcoin more popular, he says, by making it easier to use and adding liquidity to the currency.
"Five years from now, I see a use for [Bitcoin ATMs] in third world countries. Here in the United States, they’ll be ubiquitous. I think there will be a few hundred. We just have to bring them mainstream," he says. "When you introduce people to Bitcoin, it’s a very hard idea because it’s not clear, even in regulators’ minds. Even in our minds, and we’re working with it."