Today we are starting the 2nd of three open calls. The call will be open until September 10, 2021. Find all the information [to apply on our website](https://www.trublo.eu/apply/).
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Updates this week:
##How did the FBI recover Bitcoins paid in a ransomware attack?
The recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in the US worried many people that the supply of gas would be threatened. In such an attack, hackers gain access to the IT system of a company and block further usage. In this case, the company paid 75 Bitcoins worth around $4 million.
Surprisingly, the US justice department has now recovered most of these Bitcoins by tracing and later seizing them. It is surprising because so far many would have assumed that such coins could be very difficult to trace and to recover, once paid. It is unclear whether the authorities had information from an insider or were able to trace it by technical means.
Quote from a report in the New York Times.
> “Federal investigators tracked the ransom as it moved through a maze of at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing in one that a federal judge allowed them to break into, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.”
Another question, asked in the article linked below from VentureBeat: Why did the hackers use Bitcoin (where information can be traced, to some extent) and not another cryptocurrency where this would have been harder? And as important: How can one avoid such ransomware attacks by securing the IT system?
##Sustainability as a driver for blockchain adoption in the fashion industry
Producing fashion is a global business with complex supply chains. As a result, it is almost impossible for a consumer to check how the clothes are produced. This includes where and how materials are sourced, which shop did manufacture them and how they are shipped. The process is so far difficult to document for the fashion companies as well. But the need for transparency and the potential gains for productivity might change this. Blockchain records of supply chains are in demand because more and more consumers demand information about sustainability from fashion brands.
A dark pattern is a website design used to confuse users. For example, such a design aims to keep people from ending a subscription.
There are many tricks and practices. What they have in common is that specific placement of options, words and buttons is combined to make it difficult for you to do what you want. Do you think you can detect such a pattern? Test it. The Markup has a short quiz – very helpful to learn a bit more when to be careful.
##News sources reconsider theory that coronavirus spread from a lab in China: How is this done well?
Here is a difficult, but interesting question: What are the best ways to change the opinion and the reporting about a disputed theory?
Example: So far, there is a theory that the coronavirus has infected patient zero from a wild animal purchased at a Chinese market in Wuhan.
But another, controversial theory is that the virus might have escaped from a medical facility located in that city. In 2020 the majority of media outlets reporting about this topic dismissed the lab story as a potential conspiracy theory.
This year, though, the story is investigated again. While no substantial new facts are available, the view is now that the lab theory could potentially be true. US President Biden has ordered an investigation by intelligence agencies.
What is interesting and relevant here is: How do news institutions communicate such a turn of opinion? What is a good way to be transparent and open about such changes? Such as: “We reported this, and it might be wrong. Instead, this might be the truth.”
This case could be a test.
>“New information often casts out old, but it is unusual for news outlets to acknowledge so publicly that they have changed their understanding of events.”
##How to use disappearing messages on WhatsApp or Signal
On both services, there are settings to let some messages disappear after some days. Signal offers richer features. On WhatsApp, the feature is new.
When can you use this feature?
>“Disappearing messages are an ideal tool for people who are concerned their chats could be checked – especially if there is anything about themselves they want to keep private, says Scott Sammons, information and data specialist Lighthouse IG. “This could apply to a domestic abuse setting or someone, for example, hiding the fact they are LGBTQ.”
On Signal, you can select the time when a message should disappear, between one second and four weeks. The timer starts when the message is read. There is a similar feature for photos and videos.
On WhatsApp, the feature only lets you set a time span of seven days.
##Politicians from South America use Bitcoin announcement for self-promotion
First: It is not yet clear whether countries in South America will adopt cryptocurrencies such as blockchain. But for politicians from the region, the idea is currently attractive and a way to boost one’s profile. This started with El Salvador issuing a law to make Bitcoin a legal tender in the country.
>“El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele set off a movement for political opportunists and crypto-enthusiasts alike.”
In Europe, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central bank, reaffirmed that the position of the ECB has not changed. Lagarde had warned about Bitcoin in January 2021:
> “It’s a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”
Regarding the position of the ECB towards Bitcoin after the new development in El Salvador, she is quoted to have said:
>“That certainly does not change our approach to crypto-assets and to regulations, supervision, and proper classification that they should be under to avoid misinformation and misleading representations.”
On the other side: In the Netherlands Pieter Hasecamp, the director of the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, which is part of the country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, has voiced much stronger concerns about the dangers of Bitcoin. In an article, he recommends banning cryptocurrencies in the Netherlands:
>“Cryptocurrencies are unsuitable as a unit of account and means of payment outside the criminal circuit; its use as a store of value is based on the hope that cryptocurrencies will one day replace real money. But that’s not going to happen.”
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision recommends very careful handling of crypto assets by banks, the goal is to avoid that institutions expose themselves to high risk. The Basel Committee sets standards for banking policies, such as how high the number of own assets must be for a bank related to the sum of credits and loans.
The Basel Committee published a paper called [“Prudential treatment of crypto-asset exposures”](https://www.bis.org/bcbs/publ/d519.htm). For cryptocurrency exposure, the Basel Committee proposes a 1250% risk weighting, which is very high.
According to a job ad in the US, Amazon is searching for staff with experience in decentralized finance (DeFi). The position is for a Blockchain Head of Product. Amazon has recently added a “Managed blockchain” offering.
##China aims to be a global leader in Blockchain by 2025
Top telecom and internet regulators in China jointly published guidelines on how the country can transform into a global leader in blockchain as early as 2025. At the same time, Chinese authorities are blocking and curbing cryptocurrency mining operations in the country.
The expectation is that blockchain will be a key building block for the digital economy and a way to modernize governance systems.
We are getting closer to NGI Forum 2021 on May 18-19, 2021. Please join us for presentations and discussions. Register NGI Forum 2021
Updates this week:
Don’t ignore ransomware
The way this happens: Attackers hack the IT system of a company, a police force or a even hospital. Then the only way to regain access to the system is by paying huge amounts of money.
Despite being a thread for some time, the situation around ransomware has not improved. There is a lack of policies and actions for the active prevention of this threat.
From an interview in The New York Times:
What is the United States doing to stop or slow ransomware? We’re not trying very hard. The United States is the most targeted country by cybercriminals and nation-states, but we’re not acting like it. We’re mostly outlining guidelines for companies and government agencies to prevent ransomware attacks and hoping for the best. It’s not working.
Related: How the US United States Lost to Hackers LINK ($)
Newsmax, a conservative news channel, posts an apology
The news outlet had accused an employee of Dominion Voting Systems of manipulating results in the 2020 US presidential election. The person received a wave of insulting messages, including death threats. Now the news outlet published an apology.
EU vs. Apple: App store sales fee results in antitrust
The key point is that a competing music service like Spotify has no alternative as to paying a fee of 30% on all transactions, if it wants to offer a music subscription using devices by Apple, such as iPhones, iPads or computers.
From The Guardian:
“By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition,” Margrethe Vestager said. “This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App Store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.”
This is the first step of an EU antitrust investigation. It is likely to take years until this issue will go through the courts.
Confidential documents submitted in the ongoing Apple vs. Epic Games case reveal that Microsoft has been planning to cut Microsoft Store on Xbox fees to just 12 per cent.
Microsoft reducing the Microsoft Store on Xbox cut for games to just 12 per cent could be a big deal as this would mean that game developers would get 88 per cent of the revenue share. All other major stores take a 30 per cent cut on game sales, including Sony’s PlayStation Store and Nintendo’s online store.
Protocol reports about NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app that uses Artificial Intelligence to find and display local news for users:
News Break has succeeded using tactics imported from China, where news delivered via algorithm — a practice pioneered by ByteDance’s Toutiao — has flourished.
An “interest-based engine” powered by AI selects articles readers are likely to enjoy based on past engagement.
Content aggregators like News Break aren’t just winning in the U.S. market. Opera News, owned by Beijing Kunlun Tech, and Scooper News, developed by Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings, have both made significant inroads into Africa and Europe.
Medici Land Governance(MLG) has partnered with the Government of Rwanda to pilot a project that aims to make land transfers a paperless process. For the pilot, MLG has built a land transaction platform on blockchain called Ubutaka, which will be integrated with Rwanda’s existing land registry infrastructure.
Inefficient and inaccurate land registry systems are a common challenge in many developing countries. The loss of paperwork often prevents landowners from proving ownership, making people hesitant to invest in developing properties. Additionally, the lack of standardization and auditing in land management leaves the door open to corruption and fraud.
Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway is highly critical of Bitcoin
“I don’t welcome a currency that’s so useful to kidnappers and extortionists and so forth, nor do I like shuffling out a few extra billions and billions of dollars to somebody who just invented a new financial product out of thin air.”
It’s no secret that the cross-border payments landscape using traditional rails is fraught with fees, hurdles and delay.
Individual senders incur outsized fees for the billions of dollars sent in personal remittances every year.
Part of the problem is that systems are not interoperable. To send money to different corners of the world without blockchain, a whole patchwork has been haphazardly knitted together over the decades to achieve some semblance of financial interoperability between financial institutions, correspondent banks and money transfer operators along the value chain.
In February 2021 the “Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity” (C2PA) combined and consolidated the efforts of two projects with similar goals. On one side “Project Origin”, founded in 2020 by Microsoft, BBC, The New York Times and CBC/Radio-Canada.
On the other side a group by the name of “Content Authenticity Initiative”, founded by Adobe. In the new, larger group more members are represented, including the chip-makers Arm and Intel. TruePic, a startup with interesting technology in this space is a member, too.
What all the participants have in common is this: To develop standards and tools for reliable content provenance. This would include certifying the source, the origin and the history of content elements. But, it is not an attempt to re-create DRM (Digital Rights Management).
Today falsifying content is easy
So far, content that is accessible on the internet can be intentionally falsified, easily.
Tricking search engines: From false claims to falsified sources to sloppy or falsified metadata. For example a low level, but common approach to content fraud is to simply change the publishing date. Search engines are good at finding content, but all search platforms are challenged by falsified data and information.
No restrictions in Content Management Systems: For the sake of convenience, almost all currently used Content Management Systems do not impose strict guidelines nor checks for copyrights or whether the publishing data is correct.
In earlier communication the group behind Project Origin stated the goal: “Having a provable source of origin for media, and knowing that the content had not tampered with en-route, will help to maintain confidence in news from trusted providers”.
Technical demonstrators so far
How do they want to get there? So far the concepts are demonstrators or software in beta. Technically, the idea is to define an “end-to-end process for the publishing, distribution and presentation of provenance enhanced media”. Provenance is of course the key here. It means that added information should enable to trace down where the content came from and whether what is presented is actually the version that was published at the origin. Provenance information will be added no only to text-based media but also to audio, video and images.
In September 2020 the project origin published a short video, which narrated the motivation as well as the early proof-of-concept models. Key goals are to confirm the identity of the publisher and to ensure that the content has not been tampered with. This applies to the visible editorial parts, but also to metadata which might not be directly visible, but is used for example by search engines to rank the content. It is common for misinformation to change dates, for example, to make old content look “new” again.
Two videos, one from Project Origin, the other from the Adobe-led Content Authenticity Initiative show the intentions and goals.
Project Origin (2020)
Content Authenticity Initiative: Vision
Searching for a standard
As of spring 2021, there is a common goal and specific roles for the different partners. “Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity” (C2PA) aims to advocate and find support for an open standard. At the same time the different technology companies work on their individual solutions:
Adobe is working on an attribution tool, which could be added to Photoshop and other Adobe packages.
TruePic, a start-up from San Diego in the US, could have the most innovative. The company has developed software specifically to enhance and enrich content enabling checks of its integrity.
Microsoft describes the current approaches on a dedicated innovation website.
It is notable that Google is missing from the members, so far. The same is true for Apple and Facebook.
It might be that if all the big tech and content companies would join finding a compromise would become almost impossible. Instead, that is the assumption, the smaller, current group firstly wants to develop early suggestions and ideas.
Demos from Microsoft
Microsoft specifically has the most details yet how Project Origin could work. The company discusses current ideas on a webpage of the innovation department. They christened the technical approach AMP (Authentication of Media via Provenance).
Search for standard might take years
Agreeing on standards, specifically, might take years. While misinformation and content used for propaganda in many parts of the world are pressing problems. Finding common ground will depend on many details – and take time, specifically when there is a need for an agreed-upon technical standard, which is accepted worldwide.
One thing that is notable: All three projects and the entire coalition do not commit to a specific blockchain technology to store the information. It appears that the question is currently avoided – there might or might not blockchain tech in the backend.
Another problem is to find a technology that gets accepted by users and does not make media production more complicated. Adding metadata is a notoriously skipped activity in many fields of content production.
Microsoft Innovation: Exploring Project Origin https://innovation.microsoft.com/en-us/exploring-project-origin
Next steps for Trublo open call #1: If you participated, when will you get results? We published an article on the TruBlo website, to provide an overview of the process. The quick answer to the key question: Participants can expect a notification on April 30, 2021. More details: [TruBlo Website](https://www.trublo.eu/2021/04/09/trublo-open-call-1-next-steps-and-selection-process-overview/)
Updates this week:
Trust in tech declining, survey finds
”Trust in tech — including companies specializing in AI, VR, 5G and the internet of things — fell all around the world last year, the Edelman Trust Barometer found in a massive survey of 31,000 people in 27 countries.”
Procter & Gamble accused of collaboration with Chinese advertising
Apple aims to change how data can be collected for advertising purposes, specifically how profiles of users can be created. Many advertisers and other platforms are opposing the change. One unexpected result: The US company Procter & Gamble teaming up trade groups in China.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal:
”Procter & Gamble Co. helped develop a technique being tested in China to gather iPhone data for targeted ads, a step intended to give companies a way around Apple Inc.’s new privacy tools, according to people familiar with the matter. […]
The company has joined forces with dozens of Chinese trade groups and tech firms working with the state-backed China Advertising Association to develop the new technique, which would use a technology called device fingerprinting.” LINK
Blockchain for trustable food system – from seafood to grain
The Conversation: “With global-scale food systems such as seafood, nearly 40 per cent of which is traded globally, data transparency and traceability through technologies like blockchain are important for socially and environmentally conscious decision making and to facilitate trust among stakeholders. Blockchain technologies can be used to consolidate information on the quality of the seed, track how crops grow and record the journey once it leaves the farm.” LINK
New motivation: ”To quell misinformation, use carrots – not just sticks”
An article by neuroscientist Tali Sharot published in “Nature” argues for a fundamental change in how users should be rewarded when posting content.
Quote: “Most readers have felt an ego boost when their post received ‘likes’. Such engagement also results in followers, which can help people secure lucrative deals. Thus, if a certain type of content generates high engagement, people will post more content like it. Here is the conundrum: fake news generates more retweets and likes than do reliable posts, spreading 6–20 times faster.”
What could be a solution?
”At the moment, users are rewarded when their post appeals to the masses — even if it’s of poor quality. What would happen if users were rewarded for reliability and accuracy?” LINK
Facebook criticised for being unresponsive to reports of manipulative content, investigation reveals
The Guardian published findings of an investigation of how the social platform handled manipulative content, specifically outside of the US. A former employee says that Facebook was often inactive, even when warned about such manipulative content.
“There is a lot of harm being done on Facebook that is not being responded to because it is not considered enough of a PR risk to Facebook,” said Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist at Facebook who worked within the company’s “integrity” organization to combat inauthentic behaviour. “The cost isn’t borne by Facebook. It’s borne by the broader world as a whole.” LINK
Revenge of the Winklevii
Forbes reports at length about how Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are emerging as investors in several blockchain and crypto projects.
A dozen years after they settled with Zuckerberg for $65 million in Facebook stock and cash, the Winklevii, as they are widely known, have emerged as leaders of a technological movement whose core operating principle involves digitizing the records of all assets globally, decentralizing control and cutting out gatekeepers—including Facebook.
The two are now owners of a holding company called “Gemini Space Station”, which “owns their crypto exchange and Nifty Gateway”. Forbes reports that the twins invested in 25 digital asset startups. LINK
A notable uptick of interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain initiatives
The rise of Bitcoin value is driving interest in trading of cryptocurrency trading. In parallel, we see new corporate projects for blockchain. While the two areas are not directly related, the financial market seems to validate blockchain technology, to an extend.
Trading app Robinhood says 9.5 million users traded crypto in Q1 2021. This is an increase of 458% related to just 1,7 million traders in Q4/2020. LINK
The Wall Street Journal has a special how “GameStop, Blockchain.com and Bitcoin Renewed a Push to Digitize the Stock Market”. A lot of speculation mixed with enthusiasm, along with potential volatility and other risks. LINK
This week it’s the second virtual edition of the European Blockchain Convention, due to the pandemic. It is worth your time to scroll through the (long) list of attendees – you’ll find a mix of blockchain start-ups, representatives from larger companies and many EU officials. Just the visual scroll will give you an idea of interest in all things blockchain. LINK
And finally: Drivers of the new Fiat 500 electric vehicle will earn coins if they drive sustainably:
”Stellantis and UK-based startup Kiri Technologies will use blockchain rewards to encourage sustainable driving behaviour. Stellantis is the result of a recent merger between Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler and owns 16 car brands, including Peugeot, Citroen, Chrysler and Fiat. The rewards initiative will be conducted under Stellantis e-mobility program. Drivers of the New 500 Fiat, a fully electric car, will be awarded KiriCoins, which can be spent in the Kiri marketplace.”
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The NGI Forum 2021 is the flagship event for the initiative, and in 2021 it will happen on May 18-19. Participation is free.
Why you should care? The NGI (Next Generation Internet) initiative is something special. NGI brings together people who want a different internet. One, where the single user has certain rights, does not have to fear data theft or worse. NGI is driven by an understanding that you can not overload a large, important system, because it will break.
What will be shown? The event will include a mix of specialists talks, open discussions and interactive workshops. Further, the NGI Forum is a showcase. Here entrepreneurs, researchers and others present their work and their approaches. The goal is to deliver technologies and services that respect European rights and values, leading to tangible benefits for both private and public organizations, as well as citizens.
Who should join? If you are an innovator, in an organisation large or small, in an established company or at a start-up or still studying – in any case it is interesting to join and interact with the NGI community.
How to attend? The 2021 NGI Forum will be an online event. Be part of it, save the date and join here:
Will TruBlo be present? Yes, TruBlo will co-organize a workshop. The details of when it happens will be published on this website and through the TruBlo newsletter.