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California Largest State to Recognize Blockchain Records


California millennial Assemblyperson recently pushed a bill to recognize digital signatures and contracts recorded on the blockchain, making California one of several US States using or considering implementing the technology.

Millennial Assemblyperson Pushes Bill

Assemblymember Ian Calderon (D-Cal), who was elected to the state assembly at the age of 27 as the first ‘millennial’ assembly person, launched California assembly bill 2568 which would update existing laws to include blockchain technology for electronic signatures and contracts.

If the bill passes it would make California one of only a few states so far recognizing such technology but establish a precedent due to its size and economic importance.

California, as the most populous state in the US with 39 million citizens, commands a $2.3 trillion economy which reviles that of the entire UK would be a huge testing ground for blockchain implementation.

The new bill, which builds on the existing law dubbed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, paves the way for an electronic record or signature secured by the blockchain to be deemed legal and enforceable. Key revisions in the latest version include –

  • the definition of “electronic” record and “electronic signature” would be expanded to encompass those secured via the blockchain
  • the legal definition of “contract” would be expanded to encompass a smart contract
  • data ownership/use would extend to someone performing interstate or foreign commerce on the blockchain in California “with respect to that information as before the person secured the information using blockchain technology,”

California Will be Important Stepping Stone

Other states such as neighboring Arizona, Wyoming and Tenessee have already passed similar bills but to make this happen in California would induce other states with similar size and economies like New York and Texas take the same steps into consideration.

Assemblyman Calderon is one of a few young tech-savvy politicians proposing changes to antiquated systems throughout the US. Jim Powell (Rep-) from Tenessee is representing a very similar bill in his state that by all indications will pass the next session.

If states like California continue to progress on using technology like Blockchain to record signatures, contracts and possibly immigration information the influence could be felt all the way to the top of the federal government.

Another budding California politician dubbed the ‘Crypto Kid’ Brian Forde was quoted when asked about aging politicians reaction to new technology.

“We’ve got all these emerging technologies that are going to have a big impact on our economy and our lives,” he says, “yet we don’t have the folks in Congress who understand that.”

A federal blockchain ledger system for everything from voting status, to taxation to immigration progress in a country like the US where so much information is lost or misaligned from state to state, should be inevitable.

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UK MPs to Study Bitcoin Benefits Despite Carney’s Dismissal


British MPs will participate in a committee to study the risks and benefits of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency despite Bank of England Governor Mark Carney writing it all off as a failure.

UK Makes First Moves Toward Regulation

A cross-party Treasury select committee of members of parliament announced on Thursday that they would launch an inquiry into digital currency as well as examine the underlying blockchain distributed ledger technology that powers it.

This seemingly late move is prompted by last years investing craze that drove the value of Bitcoin and some other digital currencies to all-time highs and the subsequent market correction that saw the prices plummet over a few days time.

Chair of the committee Nicky Morgan said the committee will study the impact of cryptocurrency on personal investors as well as financial institutions in the UK. The goal is to find the right balance between regulation to ensure investor protection without stifling business that may grow from both cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology.

The committee of lawmakers will take evidence from a range of experts in the field to inform their recommendations which it will then submit to the government.

People are becoming increasingly aware of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but they may not be aware that they are currently unregulated in the UK, and that there is no protection for individual investors,” Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee, said.

Bank of England at Cross Purposes on Blockchain

Meanwhile, the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney continues his firm anti-crypto stance saying on Monday that Bitcoin “has pretty much failed” as a currency.

“It has pretty much failed thus far on … the traditional aspects of money. It is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange,”

Carney said, according to Reuters.

That despite the fact that the BoE is one of many central banking institutions in Europe currently examining blockchain technology as a way to distribute and track money in the public sector.

The treasury committee has created this set of key questions in order to form their recommendation.

  • Are digital currencies ultimately capable of replacing traditional means of payment?
  • To what extent could digital currencies disrupt the economy and the workings of the public sector?
  • What risks and benefits could digital currencies generate for consumers, businesses, and governments?
  • Could regulation benefit digital currency start-ups by improving consumer trust?
  • How are governments and regulators in other countries approaching digital currencies and what lessons can the UK learn from overseas?

There is no deadline set for the committee’s findings to be submitted to the treasury.

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Iran: Central Bank Doesn’t Recognize Cryptocurrencies but Plans to Create Its Own


Late last year, it was reported that the Iranian government was interested in utilizing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a way of bypassing economic sanctions levied against the country. But the government has apparently changed its mind: Today, the Central Bank of Iran announced that it has never recognized Bitcoin as an official currency and conducts no transactions in it or other cryptocurrencies.

According to Iran Front Page, the country’s central bank has denied ever recognizing Bitcoin as an official currency, along with the idea that it was actively facilitating Bitcoin transactions. The bank also warned Iranian citizens about the high risks of making investments in the potentially volatile market, saying that there’s a chance they “may lose their financial assets.” Moving ahead, the organization is cooperating with other institutions to develop mechanisms to control and prevent the use of digital currencies in the country. The bank put it as follows:

“The wild fluctuations of the digital currencies along with competitive business activities underway via network marketing and pyramid scheme have made the market of these currencies highly unreliable and risky,”

Countries Creating Their Own Coins

Despite all the FUD that accompanies announcements such as these, there are some positive developments. Iran’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi also declared today that Iran’s Post Bank is working on a locally developed cryptocurrency, which will need to be tested by the ICT. It’s unclear exactly how far into research or development the bank is in creating this new coin.

Iran would not be the first country to develop its own digital currency as a way of bypassing financial blockades. Just yesterday Venezuela launched its new coin, the Petro, which is backed by the South American country’s oil reserves.

Late last week, Europe’s newest digital currency, the Korona — which runs on the Lightning Network and is being touted as more stable, safer, and cheaper to use than its competitors — was launched in Budapest, Hungary. Jean-Marc Stiegemeier, Korona’s CEO, is optimistic about the future of the crypto-industry:

“Over the next few years we are going to see a revolution in the banking sector,” Stiegemeier, said. “Within ten years cryptocurrency will be used and accepted worldwide.”

Although sanctions on Iran are not as heavy as they were before the 2015 nuclear deal with the West, the country is still, for the most part, cut off from major international payment networks like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal. As is the case in other parts of the world, such as Africa, this economic stalemate is making decentralized payment methods like Bitcoin more and more appealing.

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Bangladesh: Authorities Trying Yet Failing to Curb Cryptocurrency Use


Despite threats of some of the planet’s harshest punishments, police in Bangladesh are struggling to stamp out the use of cryptocurrency in accordance with their legislation. Several different groups have recently combined resources at the behest of the central bank. As yet, there has been little progress towards eradicating the use of digital currency.

Harsh Penalties for Cryptocurrency Trading are Nothing New

Bangladesh’s draconian attitudes towards the rapidly expanding cryptocurrency space are hardly a recent development. Back in September 2014, the government made it illegal to transact in any form of digital currency. The maximum penalty for doing so is an unfathomably strict 12 years of jail time.

Late last year, the inefficacy of the threat of such harsh sanctions was revealed. A notice from the Bangladeshi Central Bank entitled “Caution on Bitcoin Transaction: Warning against online transactions in Cryptocurrency (eg. Bitcoin, Litecoin)” proved that the rampant use of digital currency in the nation was still a concern for the central financial institution. The document stated:

“As these are not legal tenders issued by any legal authorities of the country, no one can make any financial claim against these.”

The notice went on to state that those trading in digital currencies may be violating the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2012. In addition, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947 was cited, along with a general plea from the bank for people to “not make transactions in virtual currencies.”

The latter request, along with recent multilateral efforts from various government and non-government departments to track down cryptocurrency users highlight how difficult the issue is to police.

The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) and Foreign Exchange Police Department are currently searching for cryptocurrency traders. They have also drafted in the assistance of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

Nazmil Islam, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Cyber Crime Unit, told the Dhaka Tribune:

“We have already located a few bitcoin users, and are on the hunt for more, along with a few web pages which are being checked for authenticity. Investigating cryptocurrency trading is a complex matter.”

Bangladeshis working in the freelance sector and those who frequently travel outside of the nation are amongst those most likely to trade digital currencies, or so the BFIU believe. They also suggest that some notable cricket players have become involved with the space.

Despite the recent step up in operations against those dealing in cryptocurrencies, several factors point to a general failure by the authorities to curb the perceived problem. LocalBitcoins Bangladesh still has active traders offering to buy and sell BTC and another peer-to-peer platform, Paxful, offers Bangladeshi citizens over 300 different payment options for trading the digital currency. Meanwhile, a Facebook page called “Bitcoin Exchange: Bitcoin Buy and Sell Bangladesh” has also been created.

Finally, it’s rare to see governments and central banks issuing pleas like the one of December 2017 for people to stop committing crimes that are easily policed. If it was a simple task for authorities to track down and prosecute those who flout the law, an example would have surely been made by one unfortunate victim of the draconian legislation by now.

Meanwhile, there are also calls for the Bangladeshi authorities to stop wasting their scant resources on such “crimes”. A reporter for the Dhaka Tribune argued that the nation was in no position to be unsuccessfully chasing Bitcoin users:

“… crime rates are through the roof, corruption is omnipresent within our government, and terrorists are getting bail with impunity, our police force would do well to focus its efforts elsewhere… A quick glance at the streets is enough to betray the lawlessness which has overtaken our roads: Laws continue to be broken with little to no consequences, and police are often too happy to look away.”

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Munich Security Conference: U.S. Govt. Nowhere Close to Regulating Bitcoin


Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the White House cybersecurity coordinator has stated that the U.S. government is nowhere close to regulating Bitcoin. He particularly emphasised the need to better understand the cryptocurrency’s risks and benefits before embarking on any sort of regulatory regime.

Hundreds of world leaders and security chiefs are gathered at Munich’s luxury Hotel Bayerischer Hof this weekend in what’s been called the “Academy Awards for security policy wonks.” The Munich Security Conference comprises three days of debates, speeches, and sideline meetings regarding international defence policy, and is attended by top world leaders, as well as CEOs, human rights campaigners, and environmentalists.

Speaking with CNBC, Rob Joyce, special assistant to the President and White House cybersecurity coordinator, said there’s a long way to go before the U.S. government starts regulating Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Joyce emphasized the need to better understand the cryptocurrency’s risks and benefits before moving forward with any sort of regulation: “I think we’re still absolutely studying and understanding what the good ideas and bad ideas in that space are,” he said when asked about the potential for government regulation. “So, I don’t think it’s close.”

Bitcoin is a decentralized and digital, and unlike fiat currencies such as the dollar it’s not backed by a central authority. And as transactions are anonymous, the coin has been accused of making it easier for those engaged in illicit activities to hide their money. But this ability that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offer to avoid traditional restrictions on money and assets is part of what makes it so popular to those who use it. That decentralization is also much of the reason its price swings so wildly.

“We are worried. There are benefits to the Bitcoin concept — digital cash, digital currencies,” Joyce said. “But at the same time, if you look at the way Bitcoin works after there is a criminal act that takes place, you can’t rewind the clock and take back that currency.” Joyce described the inherent problem with this lack of a trail, noting that in the case of credit card theft, for instance, individuals or companies can contact their banks and purchases can be undone and the cash retrieved.

Business and policy leaders are divided over the future of cryptocurrencies and associated technology. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it will have to be regulated, while South Korea’s threat of regulation in early 2018 sent waves across the crypto-world. France and Germany are said to be working on their own regulatory structure, as European Union lawmakers call for some sort of control over a currency that has the potential to be used for drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism. Further, governments are more uncertain still over what “regulation” would actually look like — from more subtle restrictions to an all-out ban.

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Japanese Crypto Associations Merge for Self-Regulation


The crypto industry in Japan is still reeling from the half million dollar Coincheck heist last month. The fallout from one of the largest digital currency hacks in history was wide reaching. Further calls for safeguards and regulation have been made in what is currently the world’s most crypto friendly nation. Rather than a heavy handed approach from the government, two of Japan’s leading cryptocurrency associations are about to merge to self-regulate the ecosystem.

Self-regulation over government restriction

It was reported today that, according to sources, Japan’s two cryptocurrency industry groups are in talks to form a self-regulating body. The Japan Blockchain Association and the Japan Cryptocurrency Business Association are expected to merge as early as April with the intention of implementing further safeguards to protect traders and investors.

The move comes in the wake of the Coincheck hack which resulted in over $530 million in XEM tokens being stolen from the Tokyo exchange. The amalgamation would reassign the heads of both organizations into one self-regulatory body however no definite decisions have been made yet.

Neither association would release any details to the media however the move is a positive one and would bring about a safer environment for crypto users, merchants and exchanges. The Coincheck hack revealed a number of flaws in Japan’s crypto ecosystem but instead of the government taking a heavy handed approach, as in neighboring China, more proactive and constructive solutions are being sought.

Japan leads the way

The Southeast Asian nation is currently one of the world leaders in cryptocurrencies with reports that over 50% of the global trade last month was made in Yen. According to analytics website Coinhills Japanese exchange bitFlyer is the top exchange for daily Bitcoin trade, with over 314,000 BTC traded in the past 24 hours. Like South Korea, the country has some huge exchanges and its citizens are free to trade providing they remain lawful and do not use cryptocurrencies for any shady purposes.

Self-regulation has to be the way forward as governments are too quick to clampdown on things they cannot control or comprehend. Cryptocurrencies are a prime example and for this embryonic industry to prosper more nations should follow Japan’s lead.

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South Korea Won’t ban Cryptocurrencies but Crack Down on Illicit Activty


It seems another cryptocurrency shakeup will happen in South Korea. With exchanges imposing self-regulation, an interesting precedent is created. The government now wants to crack down on any illegal and unfair activity in this industry. This also means there will be no ban on cryptocurrencies whatsoever. It is another positive change to further legitimacy cryptocurrency in the country.

There is still a fair amount of illicit activity in the cryptocurrency industry. Addressing this problem will not be easy whatsoever. In South Korea, the government wants to focus on transparency for this industry first and foremost. Additionally, they want to remove the illicit activity from the equation altogether. It will not be an easy challenge, though. Taking firm action against entities conducting in illicit activity will yield some interesting results.

The Cryptocurrency Situation in South Korea

This new approach is the direct result of a petition sent to the government not that long ago. In this petition, over 280,000 residents of South Korea demand reasonable cryptocurrency regulation. It is certainly possible to regulate cryptocurrency companies without banning this form of money. South Korea seems to lean toward taking this approach as of right now. Whether or not this is due to the petition itself, remains to be seen.

All of this means we will see additional guidelines in the future. What that entails exactly, remains unknown for the time being. All options remain on the table, which can mean positive things are bound to happen in South Korea. The fact there will be no ban on this new form of money is by far the most important aspect. It is also worth noting the local government is a firm proponent of blockchain technology as well.

There are still a lot of different opinions among the government right now. With no unified front, the decision can easily swing either way. For now, we will have to wait and see what the future holds in this regard. It is possible South Korea will fully legitimize cryptocurrency, just like Japan did. At the same time, a harsh crackdown on cryptocurrency is still an option as well. Taxing virtual currencies seems to be another aspect worth considering as of right now. An interesting situation well worth keeping an eye on.

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Indian Cryptocurrency Exchanges Make Moves to Self Regulate


In response to the minister of finance naming cryptocurrency as illegal tender Indian exchanges have banded together to create a central repository to maintain a real-time database of traders in a bid at self-regulation.

Exchanges propose self-regulation

When Finance Minister Arun Jaintly named cryptocurrency illegal tender in his early February budget speech he set off a rash of panic selling across Indian exchanges. Since then the panic has subsided and exchanges have made moves to self-regulate in order to put off any harsher government intervention.

Cryptocurrency traders are required by exchanges to submit both their PAN and Aadhaar number along with banking details in order to open a trading account. Though the proceeds from all transactions are credited to the same account the data is not shared as each exchange operates exclusively.

Seven cryptocurrency exchanges have come together to form the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee (BACC) of the Internet and Mobile Association of India. This mouthful has tasked itself with collecting and pooling users trading data through PAN cards and making this information available to government agencies.

“This is one of the proposals we are planning to submit to the government committee which is looking into the issue of cryptocurrency,”

said Ajeet Khurana who heads the BACC.

Indian tax authorities have notified an estimated 100,000 investors asking them to reveal profits earned on cryptocurrency trading for 2017.

BACC will promote best practices

Industry experts estimate that in 2017 about 10,000 crore (100 billion rupees) trade in cryptocurrency was done by around five million active Indian traders.

The BACC plans to submit it’s proposal to the government committee headed by economic Affairs secretary SC Garg this week. The government panel will submit it’s recommendations by March and all expect a trading monitor of cryptocurrency to be appointed by March. The BACC is planning a code of conduct that would require all exchanges following Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering policies already enacted and followed by individual exchanges.

“These exchanges don’t deal with cash and will adopt the best practices applicable for the banking industry Though the government has specified that cryptocurrencies are not legal tender, we hope to present to the government committee that people can still trade in them like they do in ‘stock or gold’,”
 said Khurana.
Globally Japan was the first country to establish regulatory oversight of cryptocurrency exchanges in May of 2017 while other major trading countries like the US and South Korea are still exploring their own paths to regulation.

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