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Tech Giant Intel Partners With DApp Platform Enigma on Privacy Research

June 21, 2018

Decentralized application (DApp) platform Enigma will partner with Intel on privacy research as it prepares to launch its blockchain testnet, the two companies confirmed June 20.

Enigma, which completed a $45 mln Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in September of last year, said the collaboration would focus on “research and development efforts to advance development of privacy preserving computation technologies.”

The platform aims to provide the first environment for scalable end-to-end DApps using bespoke privacy technology to protect data “while still allowing computation” on top of it.

“Enigma is excited to continue collaborating with Intel to advance our protocol and privacy technologies for public blockchains, as well as expanding and strengthening our working relationship,” the post adds, hinting further partnership details would follow.

Ahead of Intel plugging Enigma’s privacy developments at the Cyber Week 2018 event in Tel Aviv next this week, Rick Echevarria, vice president of the corporation’s software and services group and general manager, platforms security division, appeared likewise upbeat at the prospect of improving that area of blockchain.

“Security is pivotal to our company’s strategy and a fundamental underpinning for all workloads, especially those that are as data-centric as AI and blockchain,” he wrote in a separate post from Intel, continuing:

“We will continue to innovate and make our silicon an active participant in the threat defense lifecycle.”

The move marks a further step in Intel’s blockchain involvement, this already spanning multiple industries, including healthcare, and partnerships, such as with virtual currency hardware firm Ledger.

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Startup Behind Zk-Starks Tech to Seek Cryptocurrencies as Customers

May 26, 2018

A breakthrough blockchain privacy solution forged at the Technion in Israel is taking its first steps from theory to reality.

Heralded by developers, so-called zk-starks offer a promising way to compress large amounts of information into small proofs, named starks, and can use zero-knowledge to preserve the privacy of that information. They’re also efficient, transparent and secure against quantum computation, something that in the past, has pushed excitement surrounding the tech.

But rather than launching a new cryptocurrency, founders Eli Ben-Sasson and Alessandro Chiesa are going the corporate route, offering their novel technology to actual blockchains in exchange for their native assets, or what the team calls the “tech for tokens model.”

Starkware will provide stark-powered technology to cryptocurrencies in exchange for a fee priced in the local currency, and if the market cap rises as a result, Starkware profits as well.

“Development teams are really like investors, but instead of investing money, they invest technology and skills,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk.

But the Israel-based startup has some notable investors of its own as well, having raised $6 million in a seed-funding round from Pantera, Floodgate, Polychain Capital, Metastable, Naval Ravikant, Vitalik Buterin, the Zcash Company and hardware supplier Bitmain.

In the first stage of the company, Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk they’ll be partnering with some major figures from the blockchain space, (“the usual suspects,” Ben-Sasson said,) to bring zcash-style private transactions to public ledgers.

While the partnerships are yet to be confirmed, Ben-Sasson said that there is “plenty of interest” from a range of different on-chain and off-chain cryptocurrency efforts.

Indeed, advocates from many communities have spoken positively about the technology in the past, including ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who previously hinted that such a system could be deployed on top of “ethereum 3.0.”

It’s notable considering while Ben-Sasson and Chiesa were both founding scientists at zcash, the new technology offers a wholly different outcome.

Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk:

“Our technology is unique because it is the only one out there right now that allows true exponential speedup of verification for arbitrary computations with no setup assumptions and no keys to be distributed in advance.”

Not just privacy
As detailed by CoinDesk, zk-stark proofs are notable for their ability to hide information without sacrificing computational integrity, or what Ben-Sasson calls “transparent privacy.”

If that sounds complex, it’s part of a growing interest in zero-knowledge proof systems, a form of cryptography dating from the 1980s that has been touted as a way to preserve data privacy without obscuring information to the point where it cannot be verified by the blockchain itself.

While the technology underlying privacy-centric cryptocurrency zcash also achieves this feature, zk-starks allow for zero-knowledge without the need for a trusted setup, a stage in compiling private blockchains that has been criticized for being vulnerable to attack.

Achieving this in a way that relies purely on cryptography, the transparent aspect of starks is central to its value add.

That said, Ben-Sasson said that while such qualities provided by zk-stark technology give it an advantage over other privacy solutions, the length of the proofs are still quite large, and as such, they’re up against a range of competitors.

“From a very rational point of view in this department of you know, single transactions, shielded transactions, starks are good, but they are not unique. They are one out of many solutions,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk.

Instead, the privacy aspect of starks is an option that can be sidelined in favor of another feature of the technology- compressing large data sets.

“You could add zero knowledge, you could have it without zero knowledge. Each solution and chain could decide,” Ben-Sasson said, “It’s like a switch you can turn on or off with very little implication.”

As such, going forward, the team plans to market the tech for its ability to create succinct, verifiable compressions of large amounts of data- and in this regard, the tech just keeps getting tidier.

“We have yet to encounter the lower bound that puts the limit of where it will end up,” Ben-Sasson said, “It could go down further.”

In the future, Starkware may move to provide in-house verification services for such proofs, and additionally, might create purpose-built hardware for performing the computations as well.

“When you go through scalability starks really stand out,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk,

“Scalability is the biggest problem in the blockchain space.”

Tech for tokens
Contrary to many scammers claiming otherwise, Starkware is not doing an ICO.

And while ultimately, a zk-stark powered cryptocurrency isn’t unfeasible, Ben-Sasson said that for now, the company will focus on what they do best. As such, the first step is to create a “Starkshield consortium,” a group of representatives from public blockchains looking to integrate the tech for privacy-preserving purposes.

“First of all, so we’re trying to formalize this Starkware consortium where we will integrate our technology into their systems and get tokens,” Ben-Sasson said.

Conceived of by several members of the company including Ben-Sasson, CEO Uri Kolodny, and product lead Avihu Levy, this tech for token model is a notable shift in a landscape that has been dominated by ICO startups. Indeed, while the hype sometimes appears to have settled, according to the CoinDesk ICO Tracker, the funding just keeps flooding in.

“ICO, what does it mean? It means give us a lot of money now and trust us to deliver something good. That’s a problematic model,” Ben-Sasson said.

At the same time though, it’s important for developers to be paid for their work. “We’re very proud of our engineering team,” Ben-Sasson said, “They’re very talented in both math and programming.”

Plus, ultimately, Ben-Sasson stressed that creating a coin for every new technology that emerges isn’t a sustainable trend, and for now, it’s enough to contribute to existing projects as they stand.

“We think that there should be viable business opportunities for development teams doing good work to be compensated in a meaningful way with existing tokens,” Ben-Sasson said.

If the team does decide to launch a zk-starks cryptocurrency in the future, they’ll use the same model to pay other developers as well.

“We want to be on both sides of this tech for tokens thing,” Ben-Sasson said, adding:

“Further down the line to the extent we have our own token we could engage other development teams that we think will bring value to our efforts, and would like to offer them a similar deal.”

Code via Shutterstock

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What is GDPR? A look at the European data privacy rules that could change tech

April 26, 2018

A new European data regulation that just a month ago seemed like an obscure piece of legislati
A new European data regulation that just a month ago seemed like an obscure piece of legislation is suddenly on the lips of everyone in the tech industry.

Already touted as “the most important change in data privacy regulation in two decades,” the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, goes into effect on May 25 — unintentionally good timing as it comes on the heels of a scandal that revealed that academic researchers had harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users and that data was allegedly misused by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The revelation exposed the vulnerability of user data and shook the confidence of Facebook users, many of whom threatened to wipe out their accounts as part of a mass exodus #deletefacebook campaign.on is suddenly on the lips of everyone in the tech industry.
With Facebook in full damage control, the incident brought fresh calls for stronger personal data protection to the forefront of national discourse in the United States.

Meanwhile, the 28 member states of the European Union are adopting a more hands-on regulatory approach to ensure that the private data of its citizens remains just that — private.

Approved on April 14, 2016, the new rules treat personal data protection as “a fundamental right” — a utopian concept for consumers that are used to 3,000-word terms of service agreements, automatic opt-ins and data breaches that lead to little in the way of corporate punishment.

DATA TRANSPARENCY: WHO, WHERE AND WHY
In a drastic shift in data transparency, the GDPR will give an individual the right to find out whether, where and for what purpose their personal data is being processed.

“Organizations, corporations and the government know too much about us, and what GDPR will do is provide controls that say, it’s fine that you know something, but you have to justify why you want to know it,” said Seb Matthews, a data privacy consultant with U.K.-based extaCloud.

Under the GDPR, individuals are entitled to have their personal data erased or not disseminated further, including potentially halting third parties from processing the data. They can choose to move their data and can object to having it processed for direct marketing purposes.

WHAT’S DATA?
The definition of “personal data” is also quite broad. It includes anything from an individual’s name to their location to an online identifier, such as an IP address or browser cookies that can track web activity. An individual’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity is also protected.
If a data collector, whether a business or a government agency, wants to use this data, it will have to obtain consent in a clear and accessible way. No more convoluted legalese or fine print.

“You now have to have an extremely unambiguous, informed consent before the data is used,” said Stuart Lacey, head of the customer data rights management company Trunomi, which provides GDPR-related technology and solutions.

“It has to be specific, immediate and clearly articulated in language that people can understand,” Lacey said.

BREACHES MATTER
Should personal data be breached, GDPR dictates that authorities have to be notified within 72 hours after a company becomes aware of the issue. That’s welcome news for people fed up with reading about companies that have not reacted to data breaches with the proper urgency.

Failure to comply with the GDPR also comes with a hefty penalty. Companies that violate the new rules can be fined up to 4 percent of their annual global turnover or 20 million euros (nearly $25 million), whichever is greater.

Matthews, who consults businesses on how to be ready for the GDPR, said the hefty fines will give the new rules some teeth.

“This ability to throw enormous fines — that’s a whole different level of impact when organizations fail to justify their behavior,” Matthews said.

He said this kind of “fear factor” is why previous legislation has not been very successful and created the need for the GDPR.

WOULD GDPR HAVE STOPPED CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA?
The Cambridge Analytica scandal provides a practical example of how GDPR might look in action, particularly since experts who spoke to NBC News were divided over whether the new rules would have changed what happened.

“If you zoom away from the specifics of what Cambridge Analytica did, they had a data set that was for sale,” Matthews said. “Things like that become very hard to do with GDPR in place. Simply justifying why you gathered that data would be very hard.”
But Nigel Tozer, a GDPR expert with the data backup and recovery company Commvault, said GDPR won’t help if users agree to allow their data to be harvested. About 270,000 users whose information was scraped by Cambridge Analytica had consented to having their data harvested, but the data of millions more were ill-obtained through Facebook friends connections, according to The New York Times.

“If I put my wallet with a stack of cash in the middle of the street because I didn’t think anybody would steal it and they did, it’s my fault,” Tozer said. “But if I gave it to someone to look after and said, ‘Hide it’ and they didn’t, then it’s a problem.

“What GDPR serves to do is make people more aware of what privacy is and what can happen to their data down the line,” he said.

Put simply, GDPR might stop another Cambridge Analytica situation, but only if users turn down requests to collect their data.

THE DOWNSIDE
GDPR is not without its flaws. Experts admit the new rules are creating major headaches for smaller businesses, especially nonprofits, which are running into considerable expense trying to comply and avoid heavy penalties.

Many are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the software, infrastructure and human resources necessary to fulfill requests about personal data.

“The first thing we do when working with companies is try to find where people’s data is,” said AJ Thompson, director at IT consultancy Northdoor, which has been helping businesses prepare for GDPR for the last two years. “There is information everywhere and that’s the hardest piece of this.”
For many companies, there is a massive learning curve. But Thompson says GDPR is forcing them to think differently.

“It’s a bit like buying car insurance — no one particularly likes buying car insurance until you have a crash,” Thompson said.

Experts say there is going to be a spectrum of businesses that will try to weasel their way out of complying, while others will try to be compliant to a minimal degree. Others will follow the spirit rather than the letter of the regulation.

There’s also concern that GDPR will become a boogeyman for companies, which will spend money unnecessarily on compliance.

E.U. GROWN, GLOBALLY KNOWN
Because the GDPR is an E.U.-wide regulation, all 28 member states, each with a different approach to data protection in the past, will now have to play by the same set of rules.

Companies outside the E.U. are not off the hook, however. Any company dealing with users in the E.U. will have to comply with the GDPR for those people — and that includes American companies.

Facebook’s response to GDPR has been closely watched, particularly after its recent scandal and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public comments about the regulations.

During his two-day grilling by members of Congress this month, Zuckerberg was asked if GDPR should be applied in the U.S.

“I think everyone in the world deserves good privacy protection,” Zuckerberg said, adding that he thinks it’s worth discussing whether something similar to GDPR should be applied in the U.S.

Zuckerberg said that for its part, Facebook is committed to rolling out the controls and affirmative consent required by E.U.’s GDPR, regardless of whether U.S. implements the exact same regulation in light of what he called “somewhat different sensibilities in the U.S.”

That claim appeared to be slightly contradicted when Facebook recently moved the legal governance of 1.5 billion users in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America out of Ireland and away from the GDPR’s reach.

Tozer agrees there are cultural differences between U.S. and Europe when it comes to how people view data privacy.

“People in Europe expect a greater degree of privacy,” Tozer said, adding the Cambridge Analytica scandal afforded people in the U.S. “a view of what actually goes on with their personal data” and will likely make them crave GDPR-like protections down the line.

Lacey also expects the push for greater privacy protection in the U.S. to come not from the lawmakers but from the American public, who will choose to work with brands that respect their data and shun those that don’t.

Matthews adds the panicked awareness that the Cambridge Analytica scandal has generated in the U.S. will likely help fuel interest in GDPR and what it has to offer in Europe.

“It gives this ability to show off to the rest of the world, and especially the U.S., that there is a way to do this,” Matthews said. “That privacy is a possibility.”

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Bitcoin billionaires & privacy crusaders: Tech leaders to follow in 2018

January 3, 2018

The end of year is a time of reflection for most, but when it comes to the innovating industries of tech, science and space, it’s vital to keep looking forward.
Here, RT has compiled a list of eight ‘ones to watch’ for 2018; a list of exciting innovators, influential players and industry leaders worth following into the new year.
Elon Musk
The Tesla tycoon always has something up his sleeve, but 2018 is shaping up to be a particularly exciting year for his aerospace manufacturing company, SpaceX. If Musk’s timeline is to be believed, he’s winning the race to Mars by more than a decade, and the end goal of colonizing the solar system begins with a single test flight, due to take off in 2018.

Elon Musk
“Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”

Not content with simply entering Mars’ orbit, Musk even suggested sending his Tesla Roadster to the Red Planet on the Falcon Heavy in the new year. The billionaire later clarified that the car won’t actually go to Mars, but rather where it orbits the sun and live in space for eternity.

Kim Dotcom
Despite being embroiled in lengthy legal battles due to copyright infringement charges in the US for the majority of this year, the Megaupload founder is giving hosting another try.
READ MORE: KimDotcom takes fight to US Supreme Court to regain seized assets

The German-born entrepreneur is launching a new file sharing service called ‘Bitcache’ which allows publishers to upload content and sell it directly to users, with all transactions through the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Max Schrems
Austrian privacy lawyer and activist Max Schrems is continuing to fight Facebook over the social network’s sharing of European users’ personal information to the US. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is set to rule on Schrems’ individual case against Facebook, which could have major implications on any company operating in Europe and sharing their data overseas.
Schrems also launched an NGO called NOYB (None Of Your Business) to fund class action lawsuits against Facebook. Since its launch on November 28 it has raised more than €120,000 of a €250,000 goal.

NOYB needs to establish itself before the EU-wide GDPR comes into force in May, 2018. Under the new regulations, companies will face fines of up to €20 million, or 4 percent of global revenue, if they break the new rules.

Sophia
Sophia, the world’s first citizen robot, will be one to watch over the coming year as she develops human emotions, forges her career and starts a family. Saudi Arabia made history in 2017, by giving Sophia citizenship of the country.
Reportedly modelled on Audrey Hepburn, Sophia was built and developed in Hong Kong by Hansen Robotics and hopes to pave the way to a “more harmonious future between robots and humans.”

“I foresee massive and unimaginable change in the future. Either creativity will rain on us, inventing machines spiralling into transcendental super intelligence or civilization collapses,” Sophia said to The Khaleej Times. “There are only two options and which one will happen is not determined. Which one were you striving for?”

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twin brothers best known for suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2008 for allegedly stealing their social network idea, may have recently become the world’s first bitcoin billionaires.
The identical pair are now worth more than $1 billion after capitalising on the their $65 million Zuckerberg payout and the astonishing rise of cryptocurrency.

READ MORE: 13 & under: Facebook launches Messenger for Kids

Tyler and Cameron made a $11 million investment in bitcoin some four years ago, which has surged about 10,000 percent since – reportedly the first billion-dollar return made by a cryptocurrency investor.

Speaking of ones to watch, few developments in 2018 will be more interesting to follow than the rise of cryptocurrencies and bitcoin in particular – which reached a new high (at the time of writing) of $20,000 per coin in December.

The Collison brothers
John Collison, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire – and one half of the innovating Irish Collison brothers – knows their valuation is dependent upon the duo’s ability to produce competitive products that equal the success of Stripe, the online payment service used by Lyft, Target and Amazon.

The 27 year old co-founded the company along with his brother Patrick, 29, in 2010, and now employs more than 750 people in a San Francisco office that was once home to the file storing service, Dropbox. The latest funding round in November 2016 saw Stripe valued at $9.2 billion, with each brother holding a $1.1 billion stake, making the pair two of the top three youngest self-made tech billionaires in the world.

“The valuation is predicated on us continuing to execute and launch very compelling products in a highly competitive space — so good signs, but still a lot to do,” said Collison to the BBC. In other words, watch this space.

Evan Spiegel
It was a momentous year for 27-year-old SnapChat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel. He became the youngest ever CEO of a public company when Snap Inc began trading in March. With some 170 million users at his fingertips and Facebook and Instagram aggressively recreating every feature and filter the Snap team can think of, Spiegel is hotly anticipated to continue creating waves in the millennial pool for years to come.

Spiegel says the company is working hard to attract the pools of users which are presently beyond their grasp – that is to say people over the age of 34, Android users, and those in underdeveloped countries.

Alaina Percival
You may or may not have noticed that, with the exception of a robot, the ‘ones to watch’ are decidedly male – perhaps that’s what makes this final entry all the more significant. Alaina Percival CEO, Women Who Code — Alaina Percival is Chief Executive Officer of Women Who Code, a global nonprofit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Under Alaina’s leadership, Women Who Code has grown to serve more than 50,000 women in 20 countries and 60 cities across the globe. Prior to helming this badass organization, Alaina worked as a Product Manager in the sportswear industry, she was a Startup Marketing Engineer, and a CodePath Advisor. As the head of developer outreach for Riviera Partners, Alaina saw that about 65% of VP and CTO placements for funded startups were through her company, but less than 5% were women. So she decided to change that. (#TechRepublic) — This week we’ve been focusing on women who are leading the tech revolution by providing young women and girls with resources to enter the tech industry, but lets not forget about the women who are already there. #WomenWhoCode points out that software development is one of the fastest growing job sectors in the world economy and it is projected to grow by 23%. These careers pay well with a median income that is 42% higher than other jobs. (@womenwhocode) If women make up the majority of the spenders in our country, give them more money!! Or even better, give them equal opportunities to get the jobs that pay them an equal salary of their male counterparts. I mean… duh. Women Who Code is helping to do just that by providing women in the tech industry with the skills needed for professional advancement
Alaina Percival, CEO of the non-profit ‘Women Who Code,’ is working to diversify tech by helping women excel in the predominantly male industry. Reaching 500,000 women across 20 countries in her first two years alone.

As it stands women make up about 5 percent of leadership roles in tech, something Percival wants to increase dramatically, to no less than 50 percent.

“What happens is that, once you get above that 25 or 30 percent mark, women are no longer tokens — they’re just leaders. It’s important for companies to buy into this mindset because teams that are more diverse perform better,” Percival told The Window.

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