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Coinbase Still Dealing With Fallout From Acquisition Team

· 07 Mar 2019 in Analysis
Basil has three years of freelance experience writing on disruptive technologies. He focuses on breaking news and education pieces; helping to spread the gospel of Blockchain. He hopes to have his own blockchain company one day; helping the world through its innovative ledger technology. https://twitter.com/basil_kimathi

Coinbase customers have initiated a campaign on Twitter to express their views on the latest acquisition deal inked between the exchange and a firm whose founders have a questionable history.

Account Deletion Campaign

The #deleteCoinbase campaign on Twitter started when the exchange announced it had acquired a blockchain analysis firm, Neutrino. Coinbase users have an issue with the firm’s CRO (Marco Valleri), CTO (Alberto Ornaghi), and its CEO (Giancarlo Russo).

The three individuals were behind another firm, Hacking Team, which specialized in spyware tools. Unfortunately, their tools found their way into the hands of governments known to disrespect human rights.

One such government is the Saudi Arabian government which, according to WP, acquired spyware tools from Hacking Team which led Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist, to be killed. The same spyware tools were employed in Ethiopia and the UAE to arrest journalists.

A Twitter user, Udi Wertheimer, tweeted:

“Not that I’m Coinbase’s biggest customer by any stretch of the imagination but I’m done. I was never a fan, but this is too much. Deleted my account and so should you.”

However, the Neutrino acquisition deal was seen by some industry leaders as a bad move on the part of Coinbase given the history of the firm’s founders. For example, Meltem Demirors, a strategy officer at an asset management firm, CoinShares, noted that:

“There are so many other services out there that do [blockchain analysis] that don’t have these reputational issues, and frankly the ethical issues that some of these Neutrino founders have. This acquisition of Neutrino supports the idea of using Bitcoin for Surveillance capitalism.”

On whether the exchange was aware of the history of Neutrino’s top team, a Coinbase spokesperson pointed out that they were aware but Neutrino was the only firm with the kind of expertise the exchange was looking for.

The tools and associations developed by Hacking Team elicited an uproar from Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit organization who labeled Hacking Team as ‘Enemies of the Internet.’ Additionally, the Ministry of Economic Development in Italy said that the technology being developed by Hacking Team increased human rights abuse in Egypt among other countries.

With some Coinbase users reporting they are unable to delete their accounts, it is yet to be seen how many users will leave the exchange.

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