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Net Neutrality Astroturf

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Coined in 2003 by Columbia University professor Tim Wu, net neutrality has become a deeply politicized catchphrase, coming to symbolize the struggle to keep the Internet free of bias in terms of the traffic it carries. You may have experienced this bias over the last year, facing YouTube videos that stumble and a banner below that informs you that the problem originates with your ISP. If service providers gain the power to treat traffic differently based on its origin, this puts them in the position to ‘tax’ companies like Netflix or to simply censor sites like Wikileaks right out of existence.

While Congress makes our national laws, a great deal of what matters to big business happens via ‘rule making’ from federal agencies, with the Federal Communications Commission regulating the Internet. These proposed rules are typically open for public comment, a formal process where interested parties register their opinions. These opinions are often generated via ‘grassroots organizing’, a bit of D.C. doublespeak that can be translated as:

Professional political operatives creating websites, letter writing campaigns, and arranging phone banking on behalf of monied interests.

Net Neutrality has been a victim of political astroturfing, and the usual suspects are milling around the crime scene, hoping you won’t notice them. Luckily we have the Sunlight Foundation on our side.

The Net Neutrality Hitman

American Commitment Domain

American Commitment Domain

An organization called American Commitment submitted 56.5% of the 1.6 million responses the FCC received, all via a single form letter. If you visit AmericanCommitment.org, you’ll find a slick website without even a hint of human involvement. A quick look around with the Maltego penetration tester’s toolkit validates the perception that this is an entirely synthetic entity. Email at GoDaddy, a slight departure from the norm in that the website is in the Amazon cloud, rather than quartered at Smartech in Chattanooga; a very typical profile. One of the big astroturf tells is what is missing – Maltego can’t find even one email address associated with this domain.

Yesterday the Sunlight Foundation released a report on American Commitment, which yielded this snide comment from the organization’s president, Phil Kerpen (@kerpen).

“We’re pleased that the Sunlight Foundation is finally confirming that American Commitment and Americans opposed to regulation of the Internet won the FCC comment period. Better late than never.”

PR Watch, a project of the Center for Media & Democracy, tracks PR flacks like Kerpen, and here they highlight his role in the disastrous near shutdown of our government in 2013. Think Progress notes that Kerpen was involved in the character assassination of Van Jones back in 2009. These are just a few of the first results on Kerpen; getting to the bottom of it all for even one player like him is a full-time job.

The Funding Source

American Commitment is another tentacle of the ‘Kochtopus’, an interlocking group of professional spin doctors like Kerpen and a constant shell game of 501c4 non-profits that typically exist for about eighteen months. These short term entities typically file one belated IRS form 990, but only after they have dissolved, which is a strategy to conceal their funding sources. If you spend enough time looking you will always find a trail back to Alexandria based Donor’s Trust, a tiny outfit that handles the money for those who wish to be heard, but never seen.

D.C.’s dark money cesspool exists to keep you an ignorant and compliant consumer. The handful of civil society organizations that track their dealings are too few and too small to put much of a dent in the corporate juggernaut. This graph was produced by the Center for Media & Democracy, whose own funding matches the very smallest recipients seen here.

Donor's Trust Cash Flow

Donor’s Trust Cash Flow

A Post Neutrality World

There will be many deleterious effects from the loss of net neutrality, but the big one isn’t getting enough attention. The Trans Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement being negotiated without public comment by the twelve major nations with Pacific coastlines, contains many questionable intellectual property rules. A non-neutral internet would be just the thing to have to enforce some aspects of the TPP.

Images from CMD and Shutterstock.

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Market Overview

Markets on Edge as President Trump Cancels North Korea Meeting

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U.S. President Donald Trump has called off a highly anticipated meeting with North Korea, citing “anger and open hostility” from Pyongyang.

Strained Diplomacy

President Trump was scheduled to meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 to advance a preliminary peace agreement between North Korea and South Korea. The Trump administration pledged peace and economic cooperation with the North Korean regime if it agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

Pyongyang took a combative stance last week in response to joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, a move it regarded as “provocative military disturbances.” North Korea’s rhetoric grew more threatening this week after the country’s senior envoy to the U.S. threatened America with an “appalling tragedy that it has never experienced nor imagined.”

In a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump said: “I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day I look very much forward to meeting you.”

White House officials said Thursday that the meeting could still be revived, though no further details were provided.

Markets React

U.S. stocks declined sharply in the wake of President Trump’s announcement, with Dow industrials falling more than 260 points. The blue-chip index was down 191 points, or 0.8%, at 11:31 a.m. ET.  Meanwhile, the large-cap S&P 500 Index fell 0.6% and the Nasdaq slipped 0.5%.

Gold, a preferred safe haven for investors, shot up to more than one-week highs Thursday morning. The August futures contract rose $15.50, or 1.2%, to $1,310.30 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Silver futures advanced 24 cents, or 1.5%, to $16.65 a troy ounce.

Oil prices continued lower in the wake of a shock inventory report on Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA said crude stockpiles surged 5.8 million barrels in the latest week, confounding expectations of a 1.9 million-barrel drop.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were down 66 cents, or 0.9%, at $71.18 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international futures contract, declined 67 cents, or 0.8%, to $79.13 a barrel.

In economic data, U.S. jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week, though the underlying picture continued to point to a tightening labor market. The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 in the week ended May 19.

The National Association of Realtors also reported a bigger than expected drop in U.S. existing home sales for April. Sales of previously-owned homes declined 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 647 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Blockchain

How Blockchain Can Help Companies Face the New GDPR Rules

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The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines governing the European Union (EU) officially come into play on May 25. Businesses and their associated websites had about three years to comply with the new set of rules. The companies that didn’t bother adjusting their data collection methodologies could face stiff fines.

Most companies issued a new “Terms of Use” to be on the safe side of the road. However, a blockchain system could solve the problem once and for all.

According to the GDPR, companies are expected to follow new guidelines in order to be allowed to operate for European citizens. Those regulations include the ability for the user to consent to their data being processed, the knowledge of who is processing the data and the ability to withdraw consent at any time..

Blockchain can play a vital role in this process. Websites that have users register on a distributed ledger system provide an upper hand, allowing them to be in charge of the data they provide.

Blockchain’s Role

When applied to systems in need of identity management, blockchain can operate in a level no other protocol can. The way it stores, collects and distributes data is revolutionizing. There is a brand new set of capabilities not available on any existing data protection method.

Blockchain verifies data usage through a complicated combination of public and private signatures, data hashing and encryption. This allows a person’s data and identity to be saved only on his end, rather than on a server. When that data is requested, it has to be provided from the user’s device instead of the main server.

While running on a blockchain system, the user is able to process exchanges personally, meaning the company that wants his data will have to get his consent in order to access them. This allows the user to have absolute control over his information, as well as know the company that uses it, meeting the GDPR’s “Right to Erasure” condition.

The use of blockchain also eliminates the need for massive databases since each user stores his own data. Blockchain makes it possible for each user to connect when needed, allowing companies to keep minimum information on customers and employees. Applying those changes to their products as well allows the company to meet GDPR’s “privacy by design” condition.

Privacy by design is, in essence, a new GDPR provision. According to it, companies are obligated to have platforms that are built on data privacy, with their products or services privacy in the cognizance of the rightful user. With blockchain technology, the process is automatically private, thus meeting the privacy by design criteria.

It remains to be seen if GDPR rules come into place on May 25 and whether fines will actually be levied on websites that do not comply. According to GDPR, the fees may come up to 4% of its annual global turnover, or €20 million, whichever is greater. This amount is enough to deter both small and large companies, although implementation will be key.

Blockchain can be the pioneer system behind the web sooner than we think. GDPR paves the way for greater blockchain adoption at a level that extends far beyond core business functions and cryptocurrency transactions.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Blockchain

The First Governmental Elections Powered By Blockchain Technology

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While blockchain technology can be used in countless different ways and applied in any possible industrial and/or governmental sector, not all of them have been explored so far.

One of these yet unexplored regions is using the disrupting tech for elections, allowing users to vote in a decentralized fashion from anywhere at any time, while secured by blockchain technology.

United States’ West Virginia took the first step and started the first-ever government-run, blockchain-mediated vote globally.

In the primary elections that concluded on May 8th, blockchain voting was trialed on a limited amount of people, namely deployed military members and Americans eligible to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), as well as their spouses and dependents.

Participation in the trial was further restricted to voters registered in two of the state‘s 55 counties: Harrison and Monongalia.

Voatz, the company behind the voting system has created an application that basically allows you to vote regardless of your geolocation, while the company makes sure the person voting is eligible to do so.

If the trials prove to be successful and trustworthy, Mac Warner, the West Virginia Secretary of State, is considering making the system available to all UOCAVA voters registered in West Virginia for the general election this November.

He is expected to make the decision during this summer so that the process is as smooth as possible during the election period, already tested and “ready-to-go”.

“Our team believes blockchain does provide a heightened level of security on this type of mobile voting app. We’re genuinely hoping that will allow this type of a mobile app to be made available in the future – as early perhaps as our general election – to military voters.” 

Mike Queen, communications director for Mac Warner stated on Ethnews.

In charge of conducting the results of the audit will be Voraz, clerks representing Harrison and Monongalia counties and the state’s governor among other parties.

“The Secretary’s office is very encouraged so far today and we believe that [blockchain-based voting] is a real viable option. There are a lot of other states who are asking about this mobile voting solution and who are also interested in it.” 

However, despite all the excitement of the Secretary of Office state, the whole exercise was questioned by third parties.

Professor Duncan Buell, a computer scientist in the University of South Carolina, doesn’t seem to trust the process, as he considers that Voraz application does not run a trustworthy fingerprint-scanning and facial-recognition technology, meaning the results could be vulnerable to hacking. Thus voting actually becomes trusting a company instead of the government.

While the traditional way people participate in the election process is working for some political systems, it might not be ideal for other.

In traditional elections, participants are required to travel to the city they are registered in order to take part in the process, and even if they do so, they are obliged to vote for a decision that in most common scenarios will not be able to be altered until the next planned elections.

Blockchain technology may empower voters, allowing them to actually make direct decisions regarding their residential location, rather than deciding the person to represent their decisions.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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