Posted on

China’s Orwellian Cashless Payments Show Why Bitcoin Is Freedom

Table of Contents

Like a scene from an Orwellian nightmare, authorities in Shenzhen China show where the future of centralized cashless payments is headed. And it isn’t pretty.


Centralized Cashless Payments in China

China is known for its high rate of technology adoption. Of the 2 billion or so smartphones around the world, two-thirds of them are in China.

Unlike most users in the West, Chinese smartphones are particularly popular for making instant cashless payments. Just about everyone accepts mobile payments, from small street vendors to homeless people.

Up until now, Chinese using WeChat Pay to make a purchase was completely at their will. But the Shenzhen traffic police are about to instantly extract fines from people’s WeChat accounts if they’re caught jaywalking.

Better than that? They’re using facial recognition technology to catch offenders and remove the fines automatically, no questions asked.

Facial Recognition to ‘Name and Shame’ Is Not Enough

In Shenzhen, pedestrians who violate road rules are already named and shamed on giant LED screens. Traffic police use CCTV cameras backed by AI to single out jaywalkers. Their faces are also registered on a government website.

china wechat jaywalking shenzen

AI-enabled cameras are nothing new in China’s most progressive city. The technology was put in place in April 2018 and since then, almost 14,000 jaywalkers have had their faces plastered across the screen at a busy junction in the Futian district.

The Chinese authorities, it seems, really don’t want you crossing the road outside of a designated pedestrian area.

According to Wang Jun, Director of Marketing Solutions at AI firm Intellifusion, quoted in South China Morning Post, however, naming and shaming is not enough.

Jaywalking has always been an issue in China and can hardly be resolved just by imposing fines or taking photos of the offenders… But a combination of technology and psychology… can greatly reduce instances of jaywalking and will prevent repeat offenses.

So, the Chinese traffic police will soon use a combination of facial recognition technology and instant fines by text.

Despite the margin for error (last year, a facial recognition system mistook a face on a bus for a jaywalker), the new system is moving ahead.

Push vs Pull Payments: Centralization vs Decentralization

Since the naming and shaming campaign began, the number of repeat offenders has reduced. Although Wang believes the only incentive strong enough to stop jaywalking completely is to hit people directly in their pockets.

wechat china

Intellifusion is currently in talks with popular Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo. Not only will the jaywalker be notified by text, but their account will be debited some 20 minutes later. Their credit rating will also be affected if they pass a certain limit and violate the rules too many times.

If it sounds like a scene from an Orwellian society, that’s because this is exactly what this is. Big Brother China is showing the world where the future of centralized cashless payments is headed. And it isn’t pretty.

By going ahead and taking funds from violators’ accounts, they impose a ‘pull payment’ strategy, whereby the supplier simply takes the money from the account.

Now, contrast this to a decentralized financial system like Bitcoin, in which account holders send the funds (with their private key) and payments are ‘pushed’ onto the network.

China Has Control Over Your Financial Sovereignty

It’s been clear to the Chinese people for some time now that the authorities are watching them. But with this new initiative, the government will have access to pull payments from its citizens’ accounts, effectively controlling their financial sovereignty.

It’s not only Shenzhen that’s doing it, either. The Chinese are getting trigger-happy with facial recognition technology, with similar projects in Shanghai and Beijing.

What do you think about China’s automatic fines for jaywalking? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Posted on

Switzerland Moves Forward to Fit Cryptocurrency Into Traditional Regulations

 The Federal Assembly of Switzerland has voted in favor of putting cryptocurrency on equal footing as traditional assets.


A Hesitant Vote

99 members of the National Council, Switzerland’s lower house of the Federal Assembly, have supported a motion to put forward proposed regulations by liberal public representative Giovanni Merlini. 83 people voted against, while 10 refrained from voting at all.

The proposed regulations will now have to be considered by the Council of States, which is the Federal Assembly’s upper house. Switzerland’s Federal Assembly is the country’s legislative authority.

Per the proposed regulations, the existing legislation of both administrative and judicial authorities should be adapted and applied to cryptocurrencies as well.

While making his proposition, Merlini argued that:

Cryptocurrencies could be issued to anyone with a decentralized, cryptographic-based peer-to-peer data network. A large part of the cryptocurrencies is completely anonymous, which favored extortion and money laundering.

It’s worth noting that this narrative has little support given Europol’s assessment from late 2018. Reads Europol’s Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment:

The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions — their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.

Surprising Move?

Merlini’s arguments, as well as the proposed regulations, seem somewhat surprising given the country’s pro-cryptocurrency stance. The country classifies virtual currencies as assets and it has fairly relaxed regulatory burdens and low entry barriers.

In December, the country’s finance minister Ueli Maurer said that instead of coming up with new cryptocurrency-specific regulations, the Federal Assembly will be adapting existing ones to fit the needs of the industry.

Following the motion’s approval, however, Maurer, stated that the proposal has gone further than the scope of the planned regulations.

Former UBS Bankers Raise Funds for Innovative Bank in Zug

Arguments have also been made against the motion, as it had failed to clarify how and if there are measures to be taken to mitigate any risks.

Additional doubts have been raised whether cryptocurrency trading platforms “should be equated with the financial intermediaries and subjected to Switzerland’s Financial market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

Switzerland’s progress in terms of cryptocurrency adoption, on the other hand, can’t be unnoticed. Earlier this week, Bitcoinist reported that the country’s biggest online retailer started accepting bitcoin for payments on their platform.

What do you think of the latest move by Switzerland to approve regulatory changes proposed by Merlini? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Posted on

Blockstream’s New Green Wallet Is ‘Probably the Most Secure’ On the Market

Bitcoin HODLers rejoice. Now there’s an even safer, easier way to store your private keys–the all-new Blockstream Green Wallet for iOS and Android.


Blockstream Releases Green Wallet

Rebranded from the GreenAddress Bitcoin mobile wallet, this all-new version promises to offer a more seamless UX and heightened security. It’s arguably one of the safest, sleekest, and most convenient mobile wallets for storing and tracking Bitcoin transactions.

Like its predecessor, this wallet uses 2-of-2 multisig by default. Perhaps one of it’s most impressive features, though, is that the Blockstream Green keeps one key on your device and the other on the company’s servers.

This means that if you lose your mobile device or it gets stolen, no one can get their hands on your funds.

There’s also a host of 2FA methods available within the app from Google Authenticator to email, phone call, or SMS, depending on your preference.

According to the company post, there are “too many features” to mention. However, it reassures current users that:

We’ve retained the same multisig security that our existing users know and love, while packing in a whole host of advanced features that should get our power users excited.

Support for Trezor and Ledger

For those of you used to using the Trezor One or the Ledger Nano S, the good news is the Blockstream Green wallet works like a charm with both.

If you’ve already ordered a Ledger Nano X, you’ll have to wait a little longer until the Green is compatible. The company is currently working on support for later models.

Developed by original cypherpunk and Hashcash inventor Adam Back (one of the most respected names in the space), you don’t need to undergo KYC to use this wallet. In fact, all you need is an email address for wallet recovery purposes only.

Let’s be clear. If you’re looking to store and trade a host of altcoins, this isn’t the wallet for you. But if you’re looking for the best in cryptographic security for your Bitcoin, it doesn’t get much better than this.

According to Back:

As a cypherpunk, cryptographer, and pioneering Bitcoin miner whose technology is still used today, you couldn’t ask for a more qualified person to design your wallet security.

Back’s creation Blockstream is a pioneer in the industry with the mission of “creating the financial infrastructure of the future”–all based on the most secure blockchain there is–Bitcoin.

Will you be trying Green Wallet? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Posted on

Dubai’s First Bitcoin ATM Let’s You Buy With Cash, No ID

If you’re in the UAE and want to buy some bitcoin, you can do so without KYC from the first Bitcoin ATM in Dubai. Don’t get too excited, though. You can’t make withdrawals yet–and you’ll need to show ID when you do.


The First Bitcoin ATM in Dubai

The good news is that Bitcoin ATMs are gaining traction around the world. Now there’s an operational machine in Dubai hotel and wellness center Rixos Premium Dubai JBR. However, the functionality of the machine is pretty limited for now.

For those looking to venture into the world of digital currency without having to undergo KYC or even show an ID Card, this is the path forward.

Users can simply purchase bitcoin with cash, no questions asked. They can’t sell them though, not through this machine anyhow. According to Anhad Dhingra CEO of Amhora, the company that owns the ATM, that option will be available in a couple of months.

Not All Good News for Anonymous Bitcoin Buyers

If you thought that using a fat wad of cash to purchase bitcoin was a great way to stay anonymous, think again. Remember, that you’ll need some sort of wallet to send your bitcoins to and an existing exchange to sell them afterwards. 

Moreover, when the Dubai Bitcoin ATM rolls out the sell option, users will have to swipe their Emirates ID card or passport.

Buy Bitcoin at Just Five Percent Commission

Amhora is fully licensed by the Department of Economic Development and will charge users a five percent commission on the total purchase. While this may sound steep to regular users who shrink from Coinbase and its high fees, the average Bitcoin ATM charges around 7.5 percent.

Dhingra enthused:

The commission is very attractive because you can buy bitcoins instantly. Otherwise people have to go through a number of procedures which take a lot of time. At this kiosk, you just insert cash and you get bitcoins instantly. It is possible to purchase bitcoins through banking platforms and debit cards already but since we accept cash, it is very different.

While there have been several prototype projects for Bitcoin ATMs, none of them is currently functioning. This makes Amhora’s ATM the first of its kind in the emirate.

Have you ever bought bitcoin from a BTM? Share your experiences below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Posted on

Anti-Euro Bitcoin Art Pops Up in Paris Amid Protests

The French are nothing if not expressive. In the country of the language of love, free speech, and Charlie Hebdo, Pascal Boyart has revealed his third piece of revolutionary street art in Paris with a Bitcoin QR code hidden inside.


The Bitcoin Revolution in France

Onlookers around the world, especially from the Bitcoin clan, watched excitedly as Bitcoin became a part of the Paris protests.

One of the Yellow Vest protesters wore a sign on his back saying ‘Buy Bitcoin,’ and the movement became associated with more than just unemployment, taxation woes, and various other social unrest issues.

For many, they believed it to be more about cryptocurrencies, a movement to run the French banks, topple the Euro, and spark the Bitcoin revolution.

In all likelihood, the percentage of yellow vest protestors who actually know about cryptocurrency is pretty slim. Ledger’s CEO Eric Larchevêque previously told this author in an interview:

The yellow vests do not really know about Bitcoin… They do not really think that cryptocurrency will solve their problems.

However, the fact remains that the Bitcoin movement is taking to the streets in France. This is now the third piece of street art from Pascal Boyart spreading the word about Bitcoin.

In the same vein as other pieces, the mural is provocative and radical in nature. It depicts French painter and Impressionist Eugène Delacroix burning a $100 euro note.

The piece signals the end of a reign of centralized institutions devaluing people’s savings and controlling their financial independence.

The significance of using the French romantic artist in his moral will not be lost on artists, historians, or literature aficionados. Delacroix is famous for his use of expressive brushstrokes and for shaping the movement of the Impressionists.

PBoy Pascal Boyart Is a Legend in Himself

Now the third piece of street art he’s created to spread awareness about Bitcoin, a quick glance at his website or Instagram account is enough to leave you breathless. Pascal Boyart is one really, exceptionally creative and hard-hitting artist with strong political views.

He’s also staunchly anti-centralist, sells his artwork through OpenBazaar, and accepts donations in cryptocurrencies.

Boyart’s work has been featured not only by several cryptocurrency outlets including Bitcoinist, but also in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Le Monde, and Reuters, among many others.

Bitcoin may be smaller than Amazon in terms of market value. We may still be in the nascent stages, and perhaps most French people don’t know about cryptocurrencies. But with activists like Pascal Boyart spreading the word, at least there are sparks starting the fire.

What do you think about the latest Bitcoin-inspired mural in Paris? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, pboy-art.com