Archive | December, 2015

Alleged Bitcoin architect out of sight, home and office raided

This is intriguing: Australian Craig Wright has been exposed as the man (or one of the men) behind Bitcoin. Maybe. Or not. Immediately his Sidney home (that he seems to have moved out of) and office was raided by Australian police. The only comment from the authorities is that this has nothing to do with his alleged Bitcoin connection.


• Reported bitcoin ‘founder’ Craig Wright’s home raided by Australian police »
• Bitcoin’s Creator Satoshi Nakamoto Is Probably This Unknown Australian Genius »
• This Australian Says He and His Dead Friend Invented Bitcoin »
• Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto probably Australian entrepreneur, reports claim »
• Who is Craig Wright and how likely is it that he’s behind bitcoin? »

This is like something out of a John Grisham thriller.

But what are the implications for Bitcoin? Probably none. It is a decentralized system that no one should be able to control or tamper with.

However, even a remote possibility that someone has some sort of “golden key” is enough to get the full attention of various governments. No doubt, Bitcoin threatens their control.



Blockchain can be used to fix a sustainable economy in developing countries

Many developing countries have problems with weak (or non-existing) institutions. It can be a problem to verify ownership of land, companies and tangible assets — as there are no reliable records and registers.

With Blockchain-based technology (the same technology that is the backbone behind digital currencies such as Bitcoin), such problems can now easily be solved.

It’s all about establishing a trusted ledger of ownership and transfers that cannot be tampered with. This is exactly what can be accomplished with Blockchain-based registers.

It doesn’t even have to be managed by the government. It can just as easily be set up by a chamber of commerce, a development organisation or a private company. The important thing is to provide solid records that can be accepted by everyone.

This would benefit agriculture, commerce and rule of law. And it would provide a stable base for economic development.



EU: It’s Snowden-time!

It is getting painfully clear: No single western democracy will stand up against the US to grant NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden refuge – and refuse to hand him over to Washington.

So it’s time for plan B: Let’s campaign for the EU to provide sanctuary for Snowden.

Snowden is a very hot potato for western politicians. There is a clear public demand to grant him asylum or some other form of protection. On the other hand, the US will apply extreme pressure on any country that does.

In the EU, politicians can do the right thing — and avoid to take the heat directly. Questions from the US could be directed to Brussels and the European Commission can blame the European Parliament. No single country or politician will have to stand up against the US administration.

The initiative (probably) will have to come from the European Commission. That’s the tricky part. When it comes to the European Parliament — it has already stated that it wants the EU to provide refuge for Snowden. On the opposing side, we will find most of the member states in the European Council.

It might also be possible to involve the Council of Europe (this is not an EU institution, as this organization has more member states and is the guardian of the Europan Convention on Human Rights).

Let’s use the EU for something good, for a change.



Short-circuiting democracy the EU way

Laws should be made in a transparent way and in a dialogue with the rest of society.

In the EU, lawmaking (directives) is supposed to meet such criteria: It often starts with a public consultation followed by a proposal from the European Commission. Member states are heard in the Council and the people’s elected representatives can amend and adopt or reject such proposals in the European Parliament. The Council and the Parliament will have to agree for a directive to be passed. A proposal can be rejected up to three times in the Parliament before it has to be withdrawn by the Commission. (It can then be re-written or withdrawn altogether.)

This is a slow process. And that is a good thing. Laws should not be rushed trough.

But the EU is an inpatient organization. Often there are special interests pushing for a directive, pressure from abroad or some other hidden agendas pushing the legislative dossiers.

So the EU is using an instrument called trialogues to speed things up. These are not supported in the treaty of the European Union. They are just… used.

The purpose of a trialogue is to speed up legislation. In this process representatives from the Commission, the Council and the Parliament hold meetings behind closed doors – negotiating for some sort of a compromise. The records are secret and often it is also a secret who attends these meetings. There is no transparency and no way to hold anyone accountable.

These trialogues are ever more common. Some years, there can be up to 700 of them. Today most legislative dossiers are exempted from the regular democratic process in the EU and settled in trialogues.

The result is that the public and the media is being kept away from the process. Civil society, activists and the academic world have no way to influence what is going on — not even if something is going terribly wrong.

Trialogues are especially common when it comes to matters concerning mass surveillance, copyright and telecommunications (such as Internet related issues). Here the power elite and special interests are particularly intent to avoid public scrutiny.

After a trialogue, the Council and the Parliament still will have to adopt or reject the proposal. But in general, it is always adopted by mildly embarrassed politicians — who know that there are back-room deals that should not be scrutinized too carefully.

When I used to work in the European Parliament, there was a joke that was too close to the truth for comfort: In the EU, first they decide. After that, there might be a discussion. And after that, in some cases people even might bother to find out the facts.

In the EU, the democratic process has been short-circuited.


• Civil society calls for reform of trialogues in a letter to EU Commission, Parliament and Council »
• Ombudsman opens investigation to promote transparency of “trilogues” »
• The Council challenges the right of the European Ombudsman to conduct an inquiry into secret “trilogues” (in which most EU legislation is decided) »