Five Minute Blockchain Nr. 42

Five Minute Blockchain Nr. 42

Welcome to a new edition of the TruBlo newsletter. We aim to collect and link to the most relevant content in the field of blockchain, trust and content from the past week, with optimism for blockchain technology, but not as cheerleaders. We are an EU-funded research project supporting 45 early-stage teams working on “trusted content for future blockchains”. Please forward this newsletter to colleagues and friends if you think they would be interested in this.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes 54 seconds (apologies, we are a bit longer this week).

Updates this week


QUOTE OF THE WEEK


“I can’t think of a field in tech that has had as much polarisation and as much useless noise as crypto. Behind all the noise, a lot of very clever people are quietly building highly complex and technical infrastructure, scaffolding and plumbing that might mean you could build billion-scale consumer services on this stuff in, say, five years.”

Source: Benedict Evans, Newsletter Nr. 457 (20.09.2022)


PROJECT


Projekt of the week: Enarxis – better management of EV loading stations

Enarxis project will use blockchain technology for reputation management for users of Electric vehicle (EV) loading stations, specifically in the hospitality sector.

Why in the hotel sector? Because EV loading stations have become as essential for hotel guests as WiFi was a few years ago. There are two problems: What if people reserve a station but then do not show up – but because of the reservation, the station is still blocked for use by others? Similarly, what if people load their batteries but then do not leave? Both issues will be managed with an app developed by the team behind Enarxis. The team was recently selected for an accelerator program by Visa and had earlier been funded by TruBlo.

Project profile & team members: Enarxis (EV Loader)


TRUST


How Russian Disinformation targeted a US movement

A report on how state-sponsored trolls from Russia targeted a movement (the Women’s March of 2017) and its leaders in the US. The goal was to weaken the movement by attacking the leaders and sowing doubt:

“They posted as Black women critical of white feminism, conservative women who felt excluded, and men who mocked participants as hairy-legged whiners. But one message performed better with audiences than any other. It singled out an element of the Women’s March that might, at first, have seemed like a detail: Among its four co-chairs was Ms. Sarsour, a Palestinian American activist whose hijab marked her as an observant Muslim.”

A second quote helps to understand how the tactics work:

“Ladislav Bittman, who worked for the secret police in Czechoslovakia before defecting to the United States, compared Soviet disinformation programs to an evil doctor who expertly diagnoses the patient’s vulnerabilities and exploits them, “prolongs his illness and speeds him to an early grave instead of curing him.”

The New York Times ($)


Passwords: Why four random words are better than a complex phrase

Julia Angwin from The Markup shares a reminder on how to construct hard-to-crack passwords. The critical knowledge is that four random words (for example” “Sunshine Expected Today Brooklyn”) are hard to crack (because of the number of possible combinations) and easy to remember. There is no need for a complex, hard-to-remember phrase. For illustration, here is a link to an XKCD strip about this particular topic.

In her newsletter, she goes a step further and talks to Jeremi Gosny, an expert in the space of password security. They discuss how the need for safe passwords has changed. The critical advice: Make sure that you have a different password for all accounts, not the same across all your logins. The interview is interesting, and there are several relevant and recent observations in the space of individual password security.

Quote from the interview with Jeremi Gosny: “Where we find the most success as password crackers is targeting passwords that are generated by humans, because humans across the globe still tend to think alike. Despite our language and cultural differences, our brains are only capable of coming up with a finite space of patterns.”

The Markup


CONTENT


The New York Times reports strong subscriber growth for 2. Quarter 2022

The New York Times is one of a few newspaper/news organisations that are successfully moving from the old print/advertising world to digital subscriptions. Developments are tracked worldwide in the hope of learning about potential patterns that could be applied to ailing news organisations elsewhere. The most recent update from the company is the second-quarter results for 2022. In total, 230.000 new subscriptions in one quarter mean that the goal of 10 million total subscribers could be achieved much earlier than planned.

The New York Times (Press Release)


Police at the door

In Germany, posting hate content in Germany can have direct consequences as a result of new laws.

“German authorities have brought charges for insults, threats and harassment. The police have raided homes, confiscated electronics and brought people in for questioning. Judges have enforced fines worth thousands of dollars each and, in some cases, sent offenders to jail. The threat of prosecution, they believe, will not eradicate hate online, but push some of the worst behavior back into the shadows.In doing so, they have flipped inside out what, to American ears, it means to protect free speech. The authorities in Germany argue that they are encouraging and defending free speech by providing a space where people can share opinions without fear of being attacked or abused. ‘There has to be a line you cannot cross,” said Svenja Meininghaus, a state prosecutor who attended the raid of the father’s house. “There has to be consequences.'”

The New York Times ($)


Five AR/VR trends: Free analysis of current market development

“Immersive workouts. Workplace training simulations. MeditaThere’sps in virtual reality” – these are just three scenarios which could soon define a growing market for AR (Augmented Reality) or VR (Virtual Reality). Market research CB Insights has a free 26-page study about recent trends for AR/VR, and the study is available after free registration. Salvador’sactive company so far in this field has been Meta, but now Apple seems to get ready to enter this particular market with new hardware offerings.

CB Insights


Instagram allows longer stories

Instagram will allow longer stories. Stories shorter than 60 seconds will no longer be broken into small segments.

“Now, when you post a Story that’s under 60 seconds in length, it won’t be broken up into segments. The company began testing the change with select users late last year and has now rolled it out to all users worldwide…The new change is a welcome addition to the app, likely for both users and viewers. Users will now be able to post uninterrupted Stories that won’t be broken up, and on the other hand, viewers will no longer have to continually tap to get through a long video that they may not actually want to see. But, the change could also be a turnoff for people who liked the simplicity of short, bite-sized Stories.”

Tech Crunch


Podcast episodes are getting shorter

Based on an analysis of 2,5 million podcasts episodes with at least 10.000 listeners, Rephonic found that:

“Over the past nine years, podcast episodes that are at least 60 minutes long have slowly but surely become less common. They made up over 20% of all podcast content in 2013, decreasing to under 17% in 2021. Why? It could be the rise of short and frequent daily news podcasts. Or perhaps as podcasting becomes increasingly accessible, it attracts more indie podcasters with less budget to spend on producing long episodes.”

Other findings:

  • The average top-performing podcast releases a 37-minute episode every 5 days
  • The top History podcasts have the longest delay between new episodes
  • Fiction podcasts should record longer episodes to attract a large audience

Rephonic Blog


BLOCKCHAIN


Digital Euro legislation planned for 2023

“At a conference hosted today by the Banque de France, EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said that the Commission plans to propose legislation for a ‘possible’ digital euro in 2023 to enable parliament and the European Council to debate it. The digital euro work is currently in the prototyping phase, and Banque de France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau confirmed that a decision on whether to proceed would be made at the end of 2023, with a potential launch in 2026 or 2027.”

Ledger Insights


Ethereum Merge reduced global energy consumption by 0,2%

“The Ethereum merge this week slashed global energy consumption by 0.2%, Vitalik Buterin wrote in a tweet Thursday, citing a crypto researcher. The long-awaited event successfully transformed the blockchain from a proof-of-work consensus mechanism to proof-of-stake. Proponents have touted the transition for making Ethereum an almost-net-zero technology. The switch also makes gas fees, or transaction costs, lower and means the network will be able to process transactions faster.”

Insider


Argentine airline to adopt NFT technology for tickets

Airbondi, a low-fare airline from Argentina, plans to issue flight tickets as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This means that passengers can do more with them. For example, they can sell or transfer the tickets to other persons three days before departure. The underlying technology was developed by Travel X, and the company’s website is worth a visit. The company aims to reimagine travel using blockchain tech.

Bitcoin.com


Nomura and 17here’s banks have invested in FNALTY, which uses blockchain for central bank settlements

“Fnality, formerly known as the Utility Settlement Coin, tokenizes money deposited at a central bank to enable the settlement of DLT-based transactions with on-chain digital currency. It is expected to launch its first currency, the British Pound, next month as it has been formally recognized as a payments system by HM Treasury. Other planned currencies are euros, U.S. dollars, Japanese Yen and Canadian dollars.”

Ledger Insights


Bitcoin in El Salvador, one year later

Quote via “Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain”:

  • There’s almost no use of bitcoin as a currency. The official Chivo Wallet is hardly used, and they never did get it working correctly. Businesses have taken down their “we accept bitcoin” signs.
  • There’s almost no use of bitcoin for remittances.
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds have gone up in smoke — which is as if the US spent hundreds of billions — with nothing to show for it.
  • Crypto crashed. As well as screwing over local bitcoin holders, this halved the face value of the government bitcoin reserve.
  • El Salvador can’t borrow internationally. The IMF won’t talk to them while bitcoin is in place. The price of Salvadoran sovereign debt has fallen through the floor, as has El Salvador’s credit rating.
  • The Bitcoin Volcano Bonds supposedly had $1.5 billion of buyer interest lined up — then Russia invaded Ukraine, and those buyers vanished.
  • The ground has not been broken for Bitcoin City. I’m pretty sure it never will.

David Gerrard’s “Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain”


Estonia approves first crypto bank after new legislation

“Striga, a bitcoin and cryptocurrency bank, became the first virtual asset service provider (VASP) to gain regulatory approval in Estonia following the country’s revamping of its digital asset legal framework, per an announcement from the Financial Intelligence Unit.”

Striga is the new name used by Lastbit, a US start-up team. The project had already introduced Mastercards in connection with crypto accounts. The team has been part of YCombinator, a start-up accelerator.

Striga (Homepage)

Financial Intelligence Unit (Press Release)

Bitcoin Magazine


Is crypto a house of cards?

The Washington Post has a special about the story of crypto so far, chapter by chapter.

“Crypto is among the most urgent of current tech topics, driven by billions of cryptocurrency trades weekly — bitcoin and so many others — and a cultural stigma perhaps unseen in finance since the days of the Wall Street wolves of the 1980s. Almost since its creation, crypto has been characterized by sudden wealth creation, surprise hacks, big scams, bold promises and shattered dreams.”

The Washington Post (free content)


OTHER STORIES & SHORT LINKS


  • Interpol has issued a red notice for Do Kwon, founder of failed Terraform TechCrunch
  • Looking at 320 pitch decks, here’s what science tells us works best TechCrunch
  • UN countries are preparing to pick a new head of the International Telecommunications Union Wired UK
  • “As If Nothing Happened”: I Used Artificial Intelligence To See How Some Celebrities Would Look Today If They Were Alive Bored Panda
  • Australian pilot CBDC test for eAUD to commence mid-2023 Cointelegraph
  • Christie’s moves on-chain with NFT auction platform on Ethereum Cointelegraph
  • How Web3 property rights can transform the digital economy Forkast

Thank You for reading. If you have questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us via info@trublo.eu

Subscribe here

 

Five Minute Blockchain Newsletter Nr. 40

Five Minute Blockchain Newsletter Nr. 40

Five Minute Blockchain

Welcome to a new edition of the TruBlo newsletter. We are funding 45 early-stage blockchain ideas to explore new options for “trusted content on future blockchains”. A list of all TruBlo projects is here: https://www.trublo.eu/projects/

Our main question for selecting news and links: How is the field of blockchain, content and trust evolving?

Estimated reading time: 5 min 12 secs

Updates this week:


TRUST


FTC sues US data broker Kochava

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a suit against Kochava, a US-based data broker.

“Kochava’s data can reveal people’s visits to reproductive health clinics, places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and addiction recovery facilities. The FTC alleges that by selling data tracking people, Kochava is enabling others to identify individuals and exposing them to threats of stigma, stalking, discrimination, job loss, and even physical violence. The FTC’s lawsuit seeks to halt Kochava’s sale of sensitive geolocation data and require the company to delete the sensitive geolocation information it has collected.”

FTC

The Guardian


Two-thirds of UK youth are not interested in crypto

A survey conducted by youth marketing agency Seed in May 2022 showed low interest in cryptocurrency among young people in Britain.

“Responses revealed that 66% of so-called ‘zoomers’ aged 18-24 are not interested in cryptocurrency, with 10% willing to try it but won’t prefer it over other investments. It canvassed 2,000 people during May, which was the depths of the crypto crash. Women are even less interested in crypto, with three-quarters giving it a thumbs down. In contrast, half of men are willing to give it a try.The situation for NFTs was even worse, with 70% believing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are scams.”

Ledger Insights


Facebooks pervasive pixel

A study using technology from Mozilla reveals the extent of data collection around the world.

The Markup


People buying guns with cryptocurrency leave a digital trail

Gun owners in the USA want no or minimal data registration about purchases and ownership. But buying weapons with crypto could leave an unintentional digital trail.

Coindesk


CONTENT


Sources: Netflix plans to launch ad tier in November, to be ahead of Disney+

In July, the company announced to plan for the introduction in early 2023. Now it looks like the launch will be done earlier for markets in the US, Canada, UK, France and Germany.

Variety


Google blocks TruthSocial app because of violent content

TruthSocial is a social media platform initiated by former US president Donald Trump after being banned from Twitter. Now it seems Google will not allow the app to be downloaded via the Google Play Store.

Axios
TechCrunch


French government uses AI to detect undeclared swimming pools

In France, homeowners must declare a swimming pool for accurate property tax. Authorities are now using machine learning software to analyse aerial photos.

“The software, developed in partnership with the consulting firm Capgemini and the US digital giant Google, was tested in nine regions — Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Morbihan, Maine-et-Loire and Vendée — and revealed more than 20,000 undeclared swimming pools, according to a report by the directorate. “

Euronews


Twitter tests an edit button for Tweets

A tweet can be edited for up to 30 minutes, and the edit history will be shown to users. The feature has been requested for a long time, though critics feat that the edit option might open the door to misuse.

The Verge


Little kids yelling “poop” at Alexa are driving up profits for some songs

“Pecunia non olet” is a Latin proverb that means “Money does not smell”. Now, some musicians report that songs with the word “poop” are getting many plays. The assumption is that this happens because little kids yelling “poop” activate Alexa.

Buzzfeed


BLOCKCHAIN


Helium developers propose switching to Solana

According to a blog post by the Helium Foundation, the platform wants to free up resources needed to develop and maintain its own blockchain and instead plans to switch to Solana.

“Developers behind the Helium network – a grid of medium-range wireless hotspots pitched as an alternative to hard-wired internet service – are proposing to migrate away from the project’s own blockchain onto Solana, in pursuit of faster transaction speeds, higher uptimes and more interoperability with other blockchains as key reasons. The Helium Foundation wrote in a Medium post this week that the new proposal from the Helium core developer team would improve the operational efficiency “significantly.” The proposal to move toward Solana and away from Helium’s own blockchain, officially known as HIP 70, “addresses network speed, reliability and scalability”.

Coinbase

Web3 is going great


Misplaced decimal allowed traders in Georgia to cash out at 100x the regular price

Coinbase tries to get its money back after discovering that in late August, Georgia traders could cash out crypto at 100 times the intended market rate. The Georgian Lari (GEL) exchange rate was 290, not 2,90. As a result, an estimated 900 traders could sell their holdings at a considerable profit. Coinbase is now seeking payback; accounts have been locked in some cases. The misplaced decimal point was not detected for seven hours.

Blockworks


Market analysis: The state of crypto banks in 2022

Users: From October 2021 to May 2022, Crypto.com saw its user base grow from 10M to 50M, an increase of 400%. Similarly, the number of Nexo users doubled from over 2M to over 4M from September 2021 to May 2022. Crypto lending has surged over the last two years and publicizes a vision of financial services where lenders and borrowers avoid the traditional financial firms that position themselves as the gatekeepers for loans or other products.

Company size: While some crypto banks are facing hiring headwinds, others are unperturbed amid market volatility. In June 2022, BlockFi announced a 20% layoff — the company headcount dropped from about 850 in January to about 680 by the end of July. Meanwhile, Nexo’s LinkedIn headcount has jumped nearly 60% since January 2022.

Blockdata


Short links


  • Google and YouTube outline plans for content moderation in US midterm elections TechCrunch
  • How to add DuckDuck Go Privacy Essentials to your browser ZD Net
  • Web3 Domain Name Service Could Lose Its Web Address Because Programmer Who Can Renew It Sits in Jail Coindesk
  • Snap appears to have axed its Web3 team as part of the social media company’s decision to restructure and cut its headcount by about 20%. Blockworks
  • 62% of wallets did not sell Bitcoin for a year amid a bear market Cointelegraph

Would you happen to have any feedback or suggestions? Contact us via info@trublo.eu

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

 

Five Minute Blockchain Newsletter Nr. 39

Five Minute Blockchain Newsletter Nr. 39

August 25, 2022• Issue No. 39

Five Minute Blockchain

Welcome to a new edition of the TruBlo newsletter. We are funding 45 early-stage blockchain ideas to explore new options for “trusted content on future blockchains”. A list of all TuBlo projects is here: https://www.trublo.eu/projects/Our main question for selecting news and links below: How is the field .of blockchain, content and trust evolving?

Updates this week:

Estimated reading time: 4 min 10 sec


TRUST


Spyware use in Europe, homemade

In Greece, Thanassis Koukakis, a financial journalist, discovered spyware on his phone. This case seems to be part of a whole wave of spyware uses.

“Over the past 13 months, it has been revealed that spyware had targeted opposition leaders, journalists, lawyers and activists in France, Spain, Hungary, Poland and even staff within the European Commission, the EU’s cabinet-style government, between 2019 and 2021. The bloc has already set up an inquiry into its own use of spyware, but even as the 38-person committee works toward producing a report for early 2023, the number of new scandals is quickly mounting up.”

One key finding – the spyware was developed in Europe, not elsewhere:

“What sets the scandal in Greece apart is the company behind the spyware that was used. Until then the surveillance software in every EU scandal could be traced back to one company, the notorious NSO Group. Yet the spyware stalking Koukakis’ phone was made by Cytrox, a company founded in the small European nation of North Macedonia and acquired in 2017 by Tal Dilian—an entrepreneur who achieved notoriety for driving a high-tech surveillance van around the island of Cyprus and showing a Forbes journalist how it could hack into passing people’s phones. In that interview, Dilian said he had acquired Cytrox and absorbed the company into his intelligence company Intellexa, which is now thought to now be based in Greece. The arrival of Cytrox into Europe’s ongoing scandal shows the problem is bigger than just the NSO Group. The bloc has a thriving spyware industry of its own.”

WIRED


A deep dive into the fall of Three Arrows

Long report about the founders, set-up and the reasons for the downfall of the crypto hedge fund. Apparently, “playing with money” was a big part of it, sheltered by a hybrid that the complex technology would make the blundering hard to detect.

“Bear markets in crypto tend to make any stock-market action look like child’s play. The crashes are so severe that insiders call it “crypto winter,” and the season can last years. That’s where Three Arrows Capital found itself by the middle of January 2022, and it was poorly equipped to weather it. The GBTC position ate an ever-larger hole in 3AC’s balance sheet, and much of its capital was tied up in restricted shares in smaller crypto projects. Other arbitrage opportunities had dried up. In response, Three Arrows seems to have decided to ramp up the riskiness of its investments in hopes of scoring big and getting the firm back on a solid footing. “What made them change was just overreaching for returns,” says a major lending executive. “They were probably like, ‘What if we just go long? In February, Three Arrows took one of its biggest swings yet: It put $200 million into a buzzy token called luna, which was founded by a brash, alluring South Korean developer and Stanford dropout named Do Kwon, with whom Davies and Zhu had been hanging out in Singapore.”

New York Magazine


CONTENT


How a small, slightly different view might grow into deep distrust

Even if views on a complex issue differ, it should be possible to find a consensus for the best solution over time. A factor in this should be the amount of available information – the more, the better. That would be an assumption based on common sense. But it might not be true at all. Instead, the abundance of information might amplify small different views into deep distrust of “the other side”.

„We show that small biases may lead to substantial and persistent divergence in both trust in information sources and beliefs about facts, with partisans on each side trusting unreliable ideologically aligned sources more than accurate neutral sources and also becoming overconfi- dent in their own judgment.”

Could the abundance of information on the web and social media overwhelms and confuses humans? And that this leads to more extreme positions instead of compromise?

Stanford University


Dark Patterns: Bad when used by others, but ok when used by your company?

Benedict Evans points to two articles published in The New York Times: One criticising the use of “dark patterns” on technology platforms. And other technical articles where the news organisation talks about its optimisation to gradually funnel online visitors into subscriptions.

The use of technology to funnel first-time visitors gradually towards a possible subscription is not automatically a “dark pattern”. The expression describes UI/UX layouts of websites where users have difficulty saying “no”. Such patterns are used in all kinds of applications, often leading to complaints by users who only later find out they were tricked into consent for a setting, for marketing purposes or even a subscription which can not be cancelled anymore.

But Evans has a point that often, double standards apply to the use of

The technical report about using Machine Learning to gain more subscribers does not mention such approaches. But the point is: As everyone tries to optimise the business revenue, the occurrence of tricks, cover-ups and harmful business practices will likely not go down but up. One fact from the published article: After reaching 10 million paying subscribers, the NYT aims to reach 15 million by 2027. Such ambitious growth often applies tricks to achieve such goals in time. High pressure to reach goals was a significant reason for Volkswagen’s scandal around engine emissions.

The New York Times: Stopping the manipulation machines ($)
The New York Times: How The New York Times Uses Machine Learning To Make Its Paywall Smarter


BLOCKCHAIN


In Argentina, Crypto is more practical for many transactions than cash

A recurring doubt regarding the future of cryptocurrencies (and blockchain) is the question of practicality. Where is the practical, day-to-day use?

One country where this is different is Argentina, a country where cryptocurrencies have a growing appeal, despite the volatility.

Two main reasons: The local currency, the peso, has lost value for decades. The second problem is that banks have imposed restrictions on bank accounts. Having a bank account in another currency with a bank outside of Argentina is no real option because one would have to travel there to get the money. This is why many people in Argentina store money they have in bricks – they buy bricks when they have money and store them.

“Argentinians who use crypto are increasingly untethered from the local Argentinian economy and increasingly plugged into the global cloud economy. Crypto is providing new solutions to problems that Argentina has faced for generations, and many Argentinians are excited about its potential to make it easier and safer to make, use, and store money.”

Big Think


People in El Salvador want reliable banking.

“N1co is Central America’s first neobank, thriving because El Salvador still needs basic financial inclusion.”

Rest of World


Bitcoin Depot to go public at an $885 million valuation

The company is operating a network of Bitcoin ATMs in the US.

“Founded in 2016, Bitcoin Depot claims to be the largest provider of such ATMs in North America with more than 7,000 kiosks in the region. These ATMs function by connecting with a wallet and, after a verification process, allow the user to insert fiat money to receive BTC, LTC or ETH in their wallets.”

The Block


The percentage of crypto investors did not grow in the past 12 months

According to a survey by PEW Research, the number of people dealing with crypto has remained at the same level as a year before, at roughly 16%.

(In 2020) Pew researchers asked 10,371 Americans if they have “ever invested in, traded, or used a cryptocurrency.” Some 16 percent of Americans said they had. Last month, the nonprofit asked another sample group — slightly smaller, at 6,034 Americans — the same question. And again, 16 percent said they had invested or traded in the alternate currency.

Washington Post ($)

Related:

  • 64% of crypto-versed parents want crypto to be taught in schools Cointelegraph
  • 72% of Russians say they never bought Bitcoin Cointelegraph

Ethereum Merge to begin September 6

The Ethereum Foundation says it will begin the Merge on September 6, split into two parts, the second running between September 10-20

The Block


Short links


  • cbETH: Coinbase offers liquid staking service & token for Ethereum ahead of the Merge The Block
  • Authorities in Afghanistan shut down 16 crypto exchanges in one-week Coindesk
  • Revenue is a feature. Some companies can think about it later; others must figure it out earlier. Benedict Evans
  • Mana: “BlackRock for the new economy” TechCrunch
  • BalkanID will use AI for Identity Governance TechCrunch.
  • Privado helps developers be compliant with privacy laws Forbes
  • ThirdWeb raises 24 million for web3 development kit TechCrunch
  • Polygon founder launches fund with $50 million for web3 investments Cointelegraph
  • How traditional banks cope with digital assets Blockdata

Thank You for reading. Please forward this newsletter to colleagues: Click here to subscribe.

Would you happen to have any feedback or suggestions? Contact us via info@trublo.eu

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

 

Five Minute Blockchain – Weekly Newsletter Nr. 35

Five Minute Blockchain – Weekly Newsletter Nr. 35

30.06.2022 • Issue No. 35

Five Minute Blockchain

Updates from the intersection of trust, content and blockchain. What are notable developments?

This newsletter is published by the TruBlo project. We are funding 45 early-stage blockchain ideas to explore new options for “trusted content on future blockchains”. A list of all TuBlo projects is here: https://www.trublo.eu/projects/.



Updates this week

Estimated reading time: 5 min 44 seconds


TRUST


FBI says LinkedIn used for crypto scams

“In a typical scenario, according to the report, a scammer will pose as a professional with a fake profile and reach out to a LinkedIn user, starting with small talk before elevating to an offer to make money through crypto investments. Eventually, the scammer leverages the trust earned over months to direct the user to invest money to a site controlled by the perpetrator, and then drains the account.”

Coindesk


German telcos test new advertising technology, resulting in concerns by privacy advocates

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, the two largest mobile providers are currently testing a new advertising technology called TrustPid.

“TrustPid allows mobile carriers to generate pseudo-anonymous tokens based on a user’s IP address that are administered by a company also named TrustPid. Each user is assigned a different token for each participating website they visit, and these can be used to provide personalised product recommendations—but in what TrustPid calls “a secure and privacy-friendly way.” That “privacy-friendly” part has raised critics’ hackles.”

In essence, the question is whether or not the new technology would allow for personal tracking. A spokesperson from Vodafone answering to Wired denied that this would be possible.

WIRED


CONTENT


New York Times with solid growth of website traffic

The New York Times is currently one of the fastest-growing news websites. The website got 524 million visits in May 2022, an increase of 52% compared to last year. A big driver for the traffic growth has been the acquisition of Wordle, a popular online game. The NYT purchased the game in February 2022. Another website with solid traffic growth is the Daily Mail (UK), with an increase of 14% to 373 million. For comparison: The website of CNN has even higher total traffic (641 million) but not as much growth (4%).

List of the top 50 most popular news websites in the world

Press-Gazette


Netflix starts tier with advertising

Netflix will introduce a new tier supported by advertising. After years of solid growth, the company had recently lost around 200.000 subscribers. The idea is to reach an audience which would not pay the monthly subscription.

“We’ve left a big customer segment off the table, which is people who say: ‘Hey, Netflix is too expensive for me, and I don’t mind advertising”, Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in an interview. “… we’re not adding ads to Netflix as you know it today. We’re adding an ad tier for folks who say, ‘Hey, I want a lower price, and I’ll watch ads.”

Based on reports, Google will organise the sales for such Netflix advertising.

Hollywood Reporter


China wants to censor all social comments in advance

A new proposal by a regulator in China aims to approve all social media comments in advance. It is not clear how this would be done technically. The assumption is that it would be an automated service.

“On June 17, the internet regulator Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published a draft update on the responsibilities of platforms and content creators in managing online comments. One line stands out: all online comments must be pre-reviewed before being published. Users and observers are worried that the move could further tighten freedom of expression in China.”

Related: The New York Times has a visual report showing how surveillance technology in China works and how it has expanded in recent years:

“China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known, a Times investigation has found. Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public.”

MIT Technology Review

The New York Times ($)


Notes: Twitter adds a long-form text option

Twitter will add a new feature called ‘Notes’, which then can be attached directly to a tweet. The idea is that content creation and tweet promotion can be done on one platform. Market observers view it as an experiment; it is unclear whether this will catch on. Twitter is testing the feature with several writers. So far, the quality is not available in all world regions, e.g., Europe.

Twitter


Khaby Lame rises to most followed TikTok creator

Lame, who rose to popularity with comedy reactions to other TikToks now has 142 million followers on TikTok.

Techcrunch

Khaby Lame TikTok

Wikipedia


BLOCKCHAIN


Falling prices testing platforms

The falling values of cryptocurrencies create all kinds of challenges. Example: Last week, users of Solend, a Solana-based protocol, voted to take over an account to prevent a margin call. The original user had borrowed $108 million but was getting under pressure to liquidate if the Solana token would fall below $22,30. Managers of Solend used “emergency powers” to take over the wallet. However, this decision was met with an outcry by users as a violation of the principle of decentralised decisions through code, not by single humans. While this is only one episode, the current situation in the crypto market creates all kinds of issues and pressure to invent policies for crises.

Coinbase


Three Arrows Capital ordered to be liquidated

The end of the crypto speculation bubble affects all kinds of Blockchain companies. Some of them are in crisis mode. Many watched the liquidity crisis in the past week at Celsius and BlockFi. Another firm in trouble is ThreeArrows Capital, which is based in Singapore. Sky News reported that a British Virgin Islands court had ordered the fund’s liquidation.

“The firm’s demise is likely to raise further questions, however, about the regulatory oversight to which cryptocurrencies and other digital assets are subject in the world’s major financial centres.”

The collapse of such prominent players sends shockwaves yet to other companies:

“Cryptocurrency market maker and lending firm Genesis Trading is facing potential losses into the “hundreds of millions,” according to three people familiar with the matter.”

Sky

Coindesk


Hackers steal $100 million exploiting bridge

The Harmony blockchain, used as a bridge to exchange tokens of different blockchains, has been hacked.

“Hackers looted about $100 million from a so-called cryptocurrency bridge, again exposing a key vulnerability in the digital-asset ecosystem.”

“…bridges are particularly vulnerable to hacks, as their technology is complex and they are often run by anonymous teams. The way they safeguard funds is often unclear. Sophisticated hackers have repeatedly targeted them. ”

Bloomberg


Short links:

• After the big crash, entrepreneur Do Kwon still wants to offer a new coin Wall Street Journal


Thank You for reading. Please forward this newsletter to colleagues: Click here to subscribe.

Do you have feedback or suggestions? Contact us

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

FogBlock4Trust: How to combine global institution accreditation and distributed credential verification

FogBlock4Trust: How to combine global institution accreditation and distributed credential verification

Below is a video demo of the FogBlock4Trust project, which aims at realising a Fog-assisted Blockchain-based credential management solution to strengthen the trust and privacy of users.

Innovation: The most important novelty of FogBlock4Trust is the provision of two distinct major services within one framework, namely global institution accreditation, and distributed credential verification. Other recent proposals for credential management are inefficient, unreliable in terms of storage management and privacy AND/OR provide only one of the two services.

Use case: The FogBlock4Trust solution is planned as a global institution/provider accreditation and credential verification system. It will support the use of one-way encryption, symmetric and asymmetric encryption, digital signatures, Zero-Knowledge-Proofs, and an improved Proof-of-Signature consensus algorithm. Exploiting these methods and technologies for providing end-users with full privacy-preserving distributed accreditation and verification services is the goal of FogBlock4Trust.

Scenario: The assumed scenario for the demo is that there are issuers of online credentials, in a zero-knowledge setting. A real-world example would be a group of universities providing trustable digital copies of certifications from students to each other. Such a setting (a group of issuers, a multitude of certificates/documents, and a large number of single users who can access the system for certain tasks) can be found in a range of domains.

Demo: The 20-minute demo shows how cloud and fog computing can be enhanced with blockchain features.

Team:
Attila Kertesz, Project leader: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Attila-Kertesz-2

Hamza Baniata, Blockchain specialisthttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hamza-Baniata

Tamas Pflanzner, Cloud, IoT and Web developerhttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tamas-Pflanzner

Digital advertising: How does Google Topics differ from FLoC?

Digital advertising: How does Google Topics differ from FLoC?

Digital advertising is a big business and a privacy problem simultaneously. According to estimates, global ad spending in 2021 grew by 15.6% to $705 billion (€628 billion), another record. Analysts expect global advertising to grow even further in the coming years. Stopping the use of cookies is good for user privacy. But a new solution must balance at least three aspects: Firstly, advertisers will demand effective advertising. Secondly, the new approach must comply with stricter privacy laws. And thirdly, Google must consider the effects on the advertising market and competitiveness to stay in business.

The most recent approach is Topics and aims to do the trick: Shelter privacy but still enable effective digital advertising. How? Let us take a look. Here is a structured, quick overview of the current discussion.

What is “Topics”, and why is it relevant for trust in content?

In this overview article, we are looking at the newest technology suggested by Google to replace cookies. To put it into context, we briefly examine what the FLoC concept meant and why it failed. Then we list up what is known about the new approach called “Topics”. 

Why a new system? What is the problem with cookies?

Google, the largest company in digital advertising, announced to eliminate third-party cookies in the Chrome browser by 2022. The company started to work on an alternative with better user privacy. But of course, the interests of advertisers had to be considered, and a new system would have to perform similarly in targeting advertising without tracking people individually. 

What was FloC? 

Maybe it was the name. FLoC, which stood for “Federated Learning of Cohorts”) was an approach proposed by Google to replace cookies in digital advertising. From the beginning, there was criticism that FLoC would not achieve this goal, both for privacy and effective advertising.

On the Google Ads & Commerce Blog, this approach was introduced almost exactly a year ago on January 25, 2021. The promise: “To enable a privacy-first future of advertising.” But the FLoC concept was criticised from the start, and experts noted that tracking would be reduced but not stopped. The core approach was to cluster “large groups of people with similar interests” (Google). In other words:

“FLoC is a super-tracker that monitors user activity across all sites, stores the information in the browser and then uses machine learning (ML) on the the browser to place users into cohorts with similar interests.”

Advertisers would still reach certain groups with targeted ads without the deep invasion of privacy. According to tests by Google, FLoC achieved up to 95% of the conversions compared to cookie-based advertising. 

What were the main problems of FLoC?

An article from last year listed six problems of FLoC:

  • It was not a replacement for third-party cookies – it only worked in the Chrome browser but would not support cross-browser, cross-device advertising. 
  • The cohorts were quite broad and not specific enough for many advertising programs. Advertisers who spend millions of Euros want to structure their campaigns as detailed as possible, not to lose reach and effectiveness. 
  • Campaign effectiveness would have been hard to measure – because digital ads would be shown to a large group, it would have been harder to determine what worked and what did not. 
  • Partial privacy protection: Instead of individual profiles of users based on Cookies, there would have been anonymous IDs in the cohorts. But while advertisers would not know who they were talking to, Google would still know. 
  • Too much of a black box: The complicated grouping, the machine learning optimisation and other factors would have made FLoC a black box. Advertisers would never know whether Google changed, optimised, or tinkered with the approach. 
  • No perspective towards gradual improvement: The FLoC approach would more or less stay the same, potential for years. Such a perspective does not sound good in a software world, expecting an incremental improvement over time. But refining the cohorts further and further would potentially have led to the de-anonymisation of the users in the cohorts. 

In summary, most of the criticism was on the advertiser’s side. But why introduce a system that would (partially) end-user tracking but would not satisfy the interests of the paying customers?

What is “Topics”?

According to TechCrunch, the core of “Topics” works like this:

“The idea here is that your browser will learn about your interests as you move around the web. It’ll keep data for the last three weeks of your browsing history, and as of now, Google is restricting the number of topics to 300, with plans to extend this over time. Google notes that these topics will not include any sensitive categories like gender or race.”

All websites are mapped into a category based on 300 topics, and new sites would be categorised using machine learning. 

For advertisers, the data generated through this approach would still enable them to advertise to a particular group of potential customers. d

In a blog post from January 25, 2022, Google describes Topics as a “new Privacy Sandbox proposal for interest-based advertising”. 

“With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like “Fitness” or “Travel & Transportation,” that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks, and old topics are deleted.” (Source: Google)

Google has published the API for Topics on Github, with initial information on how the API works. 

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash