Blockchain App Used to Track COVID-19 Cases in Latin America
by Turner Wright (Cointelegraph.com News) on April 6, 2020 at 3:16 am
The app Civitas by startup Emerge is part of the company’s efforts to track and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Central America. A Canada-based company is turning to blockchain technology in their efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America.Emerge, a blockchain startup based in Toronto, is launching a public safety system app called Civitas to assist local authorities in many nations. According to a company blog post, the app was designed “to improve safety and cut store wait times by reducing gatherings in tight spaces, reducing the probability of contagion.” The software program could associate locals’ government ID numbers with unique blockchain records, allowing authorities to determine if they qualify for permits to leave their homes. If citizens report they are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms, the app could help determine which days are safest for them to go out for essentials like food and medicine.Central America in lockdown over pandemicNearly a third of the nine million people in Honduras have been under lockdown since mid-March, many of whom live in the capital city, Tegucigalpa. People who violate quarantine in these areas can face heavy fines or penalties if they leave their homes without cause.Civitas would potentially allow doctors in Honduras to track these symptoms and include any notes related to the patient’s care. Such data would exclusively be available to the user and healthcare provider, with the importance placed on privacy.Countries utilizing blockchain technology against coronavirusWhile some countries are relying on the latest technology to track the virus, blockchain has been featured prominently in the fight against the current pandemic worldwide.The United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Community Development (MOCD) has begun relying on the use of digital identity through blockchain-based systems and chat systems for the digital authentication of official certificates and other documents. This allows workers to practice sheltering in place while working from home.In the Netherlands, distributed ledger technology firm Tymlez has offered its blockchain platform to model the supply chain of medical goods in an effort to prevent price gouging.
Waves Lets Users Bet on Spread of COVID-19 For Charity
by Samuel Haig (Cointelegraph.com News) on April 6, 2020 at 3:00 am
Waves Exchange hosts a tokenized parimutuel betting pool allowing users to speculate on the weekly number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Waves has launched a macabre campaign to purportedly raise money for COVID-19 relief. The platform has created a tokenized parimutuel betting pool where users can speculate on whether the global number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen or fallen within a given week.On April 3, Waves announced the ‘charity campaign,’ ostensibly in support of “organizations and funds in need of financial aid in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.”Waves launches tokenized COVID-19 prediction marketWaves.Exchange users can now purchase ‘COVID-DWN’ or ‘COVID-UP’ tokens to speculate on whether the number of globally confirmed coronavirus cases increases or decreases within a seven day period.Tokens are purchased in exchange for the stablecoin, Neutrino Dollar (USDN). All USDN used to purchase the tokens are then locked in escrow before ultimately being distributed to holders of the winning token at the end of each week.The charitable component to the parimutuel pool is that “winners will be granted valuable prizes or can share their winnings for charity purposes,” and “all additional proceeds of the campaign will be donated to non-profit organizations.”Data on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases will be provided through oracles from the Data Repository by Johns Hopkins CSSE — which receives from the World Health Organization (WHO) in real-time.Crypto developers leverage coronavirus as a marketing toolWhile the crypto community has quickly created a plethora of engaging and meaningful initiatives in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of actors have sought to invoke COVID-19 for marketing purposes.On March 23, HashCash Consultants announced its upcoming ‘Corona Fund Index Cryptocurrency’ — a token backed by nothing which purports to mirror the performance of an inverse S&P 500 exchange-traded fund (ETF).During February, developers from 4Chan launched ‘CoronaCoin’ — an ERC-20 token with a supply corresponding to the world’s population that will undergo a burn every 48 hours according to the number of COVID-19 fatalities.
Stellar to Match XLM Donations to Six Non-Profits During April
by Samuel Haig (Cointelegraph.com News) on April 6, 2020 at 1:00 am
The Stellar Development Foundation will match public donations up to a maximum of 1.9 million XLM. The Stellar Development Foundation is matching donations in Lumens (XLM) made to six non-profits during April, including the Tor Project — the team behind ‘The Onion Router’ anonymizing browser.Donations will be matched up to a total of 1.9 million XLM (roughly $79,300), with the foundation launching the initiative by donating 100,000 XLM ($4,200) to each of the charities Stellar to match donations to Tor ProjectOn April 4, the Tor Project announced that the Stellar Development Foundation had pledged to match all XLM donations on a 1:1 basis this month.Sarah Stevenson, fundraising director for Tor Project, tweeted that 20% of its individual donations come in the form of cryptocurrencies.While Tor has accepted Bitcoin donations since 2013, the platform did not support alternative cryptocurrencies until March 2019. Since then, the Tor Project has also accepted the contribution of eight altcoins including Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Dash (DASH), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Monero (XMR), Stellar Lumens (XLM), Augur (REP) and Zcash (ZEC).XLM donations matched for six non-profitsIn addition to Tor, the Stellar Development will match donations to Unicef France, Freedom of the Press, Heifer International — an entity working to fight hunger by supporting small-scale agricultural producers, and Watsi — a group focused on building technology to streamline healthcare financing, and Women Who Code — an organization devoted to encouraging women to engage with the technology sector.“There is no better time than now to dig deep and magnify the Stellar community’s impact on these nonprofits,” Stellar urges, adding: “They leaned out for us to use our new technology and now it's time for us to lean in for them.”Crypto firms match coronavirus donationsA number of charitable initiatives targeting the coronavirus pandemic have seen crypto firms match public donations in recent weeks.At the end of March, Binance launched the #CryptoAgainstCOVID campaign to purchase and distribute medical supplies to coronavirus hotspots with an initial donation of $1 million and pledge to match public contributions up to a further $1 million.On March 14, Ethereum-based developer crowdfunding platform, Gitcoin, pledged to match donations toward projects comprising public health initiatives in its current round of grant funding.
Adult Entertainment Supported by Crypto Shoppers During Quarantine
by Turner Wright (Cointelegraph.com News) on April 6, 2020 at 12:40 am
While crypto spending has fallen in some areas, Coingate reported an increase in the number of adult entertainment transactions. While many crypto holders around the world are practicing self-quarantine and other measures to limit social contact, some are turning to the adult industry for comfort. Speaking to Cointelegraph, cryptocurrency payment processor CoinGate reported an increase in purchases from adult stores in March over activity in February. Sites like ManyVids and LiveJasmin had 17% and 8% increases in cart sizes, respectively. Other adult stores reported a 36% increase in turnover. Most of these merchants are based in Europe, where measures are in place to limit people from leaving their homes and many retail businesses are closed. However, crypto shoppers are making their purchases around the world. Those who used LiveJasmin in March came from the United States, India, Philippines, Germany, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Italy, all of which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus.What people are investing in during the crisisIn March, the number of daily transactions of Bitcoin (BTC) fell by roughly 100,000, rivaling the activity during the "crypto winter," when the price of the cryptocurrency dropped to around $3,000 in December 2018. However, like investors in blockchain gaming and adult services, crypto holders on Coingate have actually increased activity for Forex during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some merchants on the payment gateway reporting an increase as large as 240% in turnover compared to pre-quarantine times. Meanwhile, BTC payments grew by 13%, Ethereum (ETH) payments by 14%, and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) payments by 12%. Coingate comments on what this type of activity means for the future of crypto:“...people might start using cryptocurrencies more often, especially when traditional markets show that they can be much more volatile than Bitcoin. And that is definitely a positive sign for crypto adoption.”Spending and transactions down on VisaBefore terms like self-isolation and social distancing became mainstream, the northern hemisphere was preparing for spring and summer travel plans, with credit cards used to book flights, hotels, and tours.In the United States, Visa has taken a hit during the pandemic, with the credit card company predicting only single-digit percentage revenue growth — in contrast to the Q1 2019 double-digit growth — for Q2 after a sharp drop in activity during March. There is also a lack of online spending for travel-related services with a number of flights worldwide being cut. With many people facing an uncertain economic future, the tendency has been to hold on to their crypto and other savings.
Darknet Market to Permanently Ban Vendors Preying on COVID-19 Fears
by Samuel Haig (Cointelegraph.com News) on April 5, 2020 at 10:54 pm
Monopoly Market has announced it will ban vendors who use the COVID-19 pandemic as a marketing tool. Dark web marketplace, Monopoly Market, has taken a stand against scammers claiming to sell cures and treatments for COVID-19 on its platform.On other darknet platforms, listings are rife with coronavirus keywords — with vendors selling everything from narcotic cocktails marketed as ‘coronavirus vaccines,’ to coronavirus-infected blood and saliva.Monopoly Market to ban vendors using coronavirus as ‘marketing tool’On April 2, dark web journalist, Eileen Ormsby, tweeted a screenshot posted by Monopoly Market’s operator that threatened permanent bans against vendors “caught flogging goods as a ‘cure’ to Coronavirus.”“We have class here,” the post states.“You do not, under any circumstances use COVID-19 as a marketing tool. No Magical Cures, no silly fucking mask selling, toilet paper selling. None of that bullshit.” Monopoly Market also warns buyers:“You are about to ingest drugs from a stranger on the internet — under no circumstances should you trust any vendor that is using COVID-10 as a marketing tool to peddle tangle/already questionable goods.”Darknet markets rife with coronavirus listingsWhile Monopoly seeks to stamp out listings targeting coronavirus, vendors on other platforms are competing to capitalize on the public’s fears.In addition to fake coronavirus antidotes and vaccines priced for hundreds of dollars, packs of surgical and N95 masks are being sold worldwide for an exorbitant premium. President Donald Trump’s recent statements concerning the potential for the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have resulted in a similar emergence of listings for the anti-malarial drugs — despite experts warning that there is an absence of peer-reviewed evidence demonstrating their effectiveness in treating or preventing COVID-19.A report published by The Independent shows listings for boxes of chloroquine priced at $200 each.Some dark web entities push back against exploiting COVID-19On March 19, cyber threat research company Digital Shadows published a report examining the reactions from the dark web community to the coronavirus pandemic.The report concluded that while many cybercriminals have sought to “capitalize on fear and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” the firm also “observed some atypical discussions from users,” — including “discouraging other users from profiting off the pandemic,” “expressing solidarity with countries affected,” and “providing health and safety information.”On March 18, cybersecurity publication, BleepingComputer, reported that only two of seven ransomware operators contacted by the outlet had stated that they would not target hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. This past week, Cointelegraph reported that IT professionals from 65 countries had banded together to fight ransomware targeting hospitals.
In Legal Battle With US SEC, Telegram Sees New Support From Trade Association
by Kollen Post (Cointelegraph.com News) on April 5, 2020 at 10:15 pm
A major trade association for the blockchain industry writes to U.S. court to defend Telegram in legal battle with the SEC. The Blockchain Association, a major United States-based trade association in the crypto sphere, has filed a new brief in support of Telegram amid the firm’s continuing legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC).The amicus brief and the SEC’s lack of clarityThe April 3 brief takes the SEC to task for backtracking on its own guidance for legally distributing digital assets. Referring to the inconsistency that issuers of digital assets must cope with when dealing with the SEC, the brief says that “No settled precedent or agency rulemaking addressed whether and when digital assets amounted to securities.”As to Telegram’s particular conundrum, the brief reads: “the enforcement posture in this case, and the district court’s position, run the opposite direction of the Commission’s prior statements.” The brief emphasizes Telegram’s efforts to work to the SEC’s expectationsWhen the SEC initially sought an emergency action against Telegram, the firm argued that it had filed for an exemption under Regulation D. Reg. D allows firms to sell shares to investors that meet certain criteria without having to report to the full extent required of publicly traded firms. The brief argues that Telegram was clearly trying to operate within the SEC’s expectations, including based on the SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) framework. SAFT aims to allow tokens to be sold via investment contracts that are securities, with the acknowledgment that the tokens themselves “need not be securities themselves.” In Telegram’s case, this is the SEC’s objection:“The Commission’s statements have expressly encouraged this [SAFT] model and its reliance on Regulation D private placements. Innovators and developers unsurprisingly relied on these statements, only to be surprised with enforcement actions.” For Telegram, this surprise stung. The SEC ordered its initial halt on GRAM token distribution weeks before it was scheduled and after the company had raised over $1.7 billion from their sale. The brief cites this act as unfair:“To ignore the Commission’s prior statements and permit it enjoin shut down the delivery of Grams — at great cost to Telegram, the investors, and many other projects — constitutes just the sort of ‘unfair surprise’ that an agency should not be permitted to spring on the public.”An amicus brief — coming from the phrase “amicus curiae,” Latin for a friend of the court — is a means for an entity outside of a legal case to weigh in on the subject. The Blockchain Association is not itself party to the case.Where SEC v. Telegram stands currentlyThe Blockchain Association’s new brief comes amid a series of decisions against Telegram — most recently, the judge in the case denying the firm’s ability to distribute its TON tokens outside of the U.S. Some within the SEC are looking to change these frameworks more formally. In February, Commissioner Hester Peirce proposed a new framework that lays out a safe harbor for tokens to launch in a centralized manner as long as they demonstrate decentralization within 3 years. The safe harbor would keep the SEC from pursuing tokens that successfully become “non-securities” in that timeframe.