Facial Recognition Tech May Be Being Used Against Russian Protestors

As massive protests sweep across the nation, activists fear Russia has been deploying facial recognition technology to clamp down on dissent. 

Following nationwide protest rallies on Jan. 31, several people reported on social media they were detained by the police after subway and street surveillance cameras recognized them as protesters. Countries all over the world deploy facial recognition tech to surveil cities, leading to fears of possible abuse. 

Over the past two weekends, Russians have been protesting the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who recently returned to Russia after recovering from being poisoned. Navalny built a nationwide political movement in Russia by exposing corruption among the country’s high-ranking officials. 

His latest investigation, released on YouTube after he was jailed, reveals a luxurious palace reportedly belonging to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. (Putin denies he owned the property.)

The authorities have responded to the protests with mass arrests, beatings, criminal persecution of protesters and apparently some fresh surveillance methods.   

Popular photographer George Malets wrote on Facebook he was detained on Jan. 31 in the Moscow subway. Malets told CoinDesk that at the police station the police officers mentioned some “Face ID” system being used to search for people. 

He added that he overheard people saying they were detained because they were spotted by street cameras at the previous protest rally on Jan. 23.

“According to what I heard from police officers talking to each other, there was a mass search yesterday,” Malets said. “Apparently, they were looking for anyone who was at least near the rally.” 

The officers asked Malets about his presence at the rally, he wrote in his Facebook post, and were not convinced by his words that he went to the rally as a journalist to take photos. During the rally police detained journalists along with protesters, even though they were wearing green “Press” vests.

Lawyer Mikhail Biryukov posted yesterday his client Kamil Galeev, a historian, was detained at his home. According to the lawyer, street cameras captured Galeev during the protest rally on Jan. 23, and to identify him the police used photos from Galeev’s passport and social networks.

Rapper Samariddin Rajabov also tweeted yesterday that he was detained in the subway. Moscow subway stations have been recently equipped with video cameras, some of them placed on the entrance turnstiles. 

The city authorities announced last year that those cameras would use facial recognition software to charge passengers for entrance and locate people “in need of medical assistance” for express help.

The Moscow government is planning to spend $33 million to ramp up video surveillance in the peripheral districts of Moscow this year.



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Robinhood Raises $2.4 Billion After Gamestop Incident

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Exchange Tokens Hit New All-time Highs as Stock Traders Rush to Crypto

Some retail equities traders, frustrated with recent restrictions on stock buying on trading platforms including Robinhood, are turning their attention to centralized and decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (CEX and DEX, respectively), according to new data. That’s helping to drive several of these exchanges’ tokens to new highs.

Last week GameStop (GME) and and other stocks involved in a battle between a short-selling hedge fund and a Reddit group captured the imagination of the general public, a battle that drove these stocks’ prices higher and squeezed the short seller.

Now, some of that buying excitement has spilled over to crypto where CEX and DEX trading volumes have risen over the past week, according to several crypto trading data sites.

Read More: After GME, Dogecoin and Bitcoin, Chinese Traders Are Betting What Will Pump Next

CEX volumes rise, taking tokens with them

Trading volumes for bitcoin futures on Binance and FTX surged over the weekend, according to data site Skew.

Source: Skew

Binance’s BNB token hit a new all-time high at $50.27 during early U.S. trading hours on Monday, while FTX’s FTT token logged a record price of $12.95 on Friday, according to data from Messari.

“ATH [all-time highs] on a few different matrices” [for BNB], Changpeng Zhao, chief executive of Binance, tweeted earlier Monday.

Through a spokesperson, Zhao told CoinDesk that Binance’s utility token’s price rally is driven by its multiple use cases.

“[BNB’s] use cases have expanded to hundreds of applications on numerous platforms and projects within the crypto ecosystem [and] these are reflected in its growing price,” said the spokesperson, quoting Zhao. “…To become a true mass-adopted application, BNB must be able to facilitate billions of transactions per day. In its current form, we still have a long way to go.”

The traffic spike last weekend pushing BNB and FTT to the record highs likely resulted from increased trading traffic by retail traders coming from the traditional stock market, according John Todaro, director of institutional research at TradeBlock. (Cryptocurrency analytics firm TradeBlock is a subsidiary of CoinDesk.)

“The recent retail trading saga has shown that trading platforms, brokerages and even exchanges can shut down aspects of the trade process without much notice,” Todaro said. “This pushed some retail traders into cryptocurrency markets, as we saw with dogecoin, xrp, and stellar lumens catching a bid on the week.”

Read More: Crypto Long & Short: GameStop, Dogecoin and a New Market Paradigm

In an effort to capitalize on the retail trading frenzy caused by the GameStop stock drama, FTX last week listed a WallStreetBets (WSB) index quarterly futures contract, named for the Reddit group involved with the GameStop drama. The basket of stocks in the contract include GameStop plus Nokia (NOK), BlackBerry (BB), AMC Entertainment (AMC) plus the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) because of recent interest in silver.

Read More: FTX Exchange Lists WallStreetBets Futures to Capitalize on Investing Movement

“FTX lists tokenized equities, so investors could also be anticipating that Robinhood users and others may switch over to FTX to continue investing in stocks without the limits that various traditional brokerages have applied on their retail users,” Todaro added.

As of press time, FTX did not respond to CoinDesk’s requests for comment.

UniSwap and SushiSwap lead way for DEXs

Activity in decentralized finance (DeFi) is on the upswing. Total January trading volume on DEXs soared to an all-time high above $50 billion. On a seven-day basis, UniSwap and SushiSwap, the two leading DEXs, took 48.8% and 23.3%, respectively, of all DEX trading volumes, according to Dune Analytics’ DEX metrics tracker.

Read More: Decentralized Exchange Volumes Hit Record Above $50B in January

Monthly trading volumes on Uniswap and Sushiswap since September 2020.

Source: Dune Analytics

“Overall, the [crypto] market has had a lot of volume increased, both on CEX and DeFi,” Peter Chan, lead quant trader at Hong Kong-based OneBit Quant, told CoinDesk. He credits growing trade volume on SushiSwap for its SUSHI token’s price surge.

At the same time, Uniswap (UNI) and SushiSwap tokens exceeded their previous high prices, on Jan 31. and Feb. 1, respectively, according to data from Messari’s decentralized finance tracker.

Retail traders appear to be driving at least part of the price movement. The number of Google searches for “Uniswap,” the biggest decentralized exchange by market cap, is almost as high as during last year’s “DeFi summer” boom. That is an indicator of retail demand for DEXs, according to TradeBlock’s weekly newsletter of Feb. 1. It also reflects some retail traders’ growing concerns regarding centralized trading platforms, with more people wanting to learn about decentralized exchanges such as Uniswap.

Uniswap Google search interest over time.

Source: TradeBlock

“Within DeFi, arguably the most ostensible applications in the sector are the DEXs [such as] Uniswap and SushiSwap,” Todaro said. “As the sector heats up, UNI and SUSHI have been the primary benefactors as they are the most visible.”



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Blockchain Adoption on the Agenda as Deutsche Bank Leads $31M Axoni Series B

Deutsche Bank has participated in a $31 million Series B add-on funding for blockchain startup Axoni which the bank says could have profound implications for the future of the capital market. The intersection of mainstream finance and the novel decentralized ledger technology (DLT) continues to expand with several participants creating protocols that will improve the speed, efficiency, and scalability of the global asset trading market.

Axoni Gets More Fuel for Blockchain Disruption of Global Financial Markets

According to a press release issued on Monday (Feb. 1, 2021), Axoni has closed a $31 million equity financing round led by the likes of Deutsche Bank and Intel Capital. The communique also revealed that investors from previous funding rounds like J.P. Morgan, HSBC, and Goldman Sachs also participated in the Series B add-on. With the recent $31 million, Axoni has now raised about $90 million from its investment partners.

As previously reported by BTCManager, Goldman and J.P. Morgan invested $32 million into the fear in the middle of the 2018 bear market. At the time, the move represented a further interest in the Axoni project which began after the duo abandoned its interest in the R3 blockchain consortium.

Axoni is one of the more successful enterprise blockchain projects with a special focus on adopting blockchain for automatic financial markets. Indeed, according to Forbes, this latest $31 million investment could potentially save the capital market billions of dollars.

Commenting on this potential, Henrik Johnsson told Forbes:

““Across the banks, the potential reduction in operational risk is certainly in the hundreds of millions, if not in billions.”

These cost savings could come in the form of integrating DLT into the global capital markets matrix to eliminate many of the redundancies and inefficiencies that exist within. Blockchain-based automation could help to make middlemen irrelevant in processes like corporate bond issuance.

DLT Adoption in the Capital Market

Back in 2015, BTCManager reported that blockchain adoption in the capital market was a matter of “when, and not if.” As part of its 2020 Enterprise Blockchain report, LeadBlock, a European venture capital (VC) firm revealed that the financial services industry was the most prominent use case for DLT in the region.

Already, blockchain is making a significant splash in the bond issuance arena with banks and financial institutions from around the world tapping the technology to issue bonds. Back in December 2020, UnionBank and Standard Chartered unveiled a $190 million blockchain-based bond issuance project.

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Coinbase Picks Nasdaq for Direct Listing: Report

After months of speculation, San Francisco-based crypto exchange Coinbase recently announced plans to go public via a direct listing.

Now, The Block reports that the company will list its shares on Nasdaq. (Coinbase did not confirm the report.)

Coinbase quietly filed a draft of its registration with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) back in December, and the direct listing was officially announced last week. Unlike an IPO, a direct listing doesn’t involve creating new shares.

The Block also reported that Coinbase has launched a secondary market for private shares with Nasdaq’s Private Market service, which has already implied a valuation of around $50 billion.

Under the aegis of CEO Brian Armstrong, Coinbase has grown into one of the most dominant crypto companies in the world—it’s already raised over $500 million from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain.

In addition to its retail brokerage, Coinbase also offers institutional services; the deals it coordinated with the software company MicroStrategy last year may have contributed to a surge in the price of Bitcoin.

Coinbase is the first crypto exchange to go public in the US.


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The GameStop Frenzy Will Turn Into Hollywood Script By MGM and The Winklevoss

The Winklevoss twins will partner with MGM Studios for a movie featuring the latest GameStop craze, where a subreddit group rebelled against Wall Street hedge funds. Best-selling author and Academy-award winner Ben Mezrich will also work on the project. 

The GameStop Frenzy Turns Into a Movie

The Winklevoss twins are up to a collaboration with Hollywood movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The script will represent the recent story of the subreddit group WallStreetBets (WSB), rebelling against Wall Street hedge funds.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss will start the project with the prominent Hollywood studio, which has brought some of the biggest movies to the screen during the last few decades.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Image Source: CNN

The project will reportedly onboard New York Times’ best-selling author Ben Mezrich, whose book proposal “The Antisocial Network” will be at the heart of the movie script.

Bitcoin entrepreneurs, the Winklevoss twins, will have the executive producers’ role via their establishment Winklevoss Pictures, while Aaron Ryder (“Arrival”) will produce.

Another Financial Event Turned Into a Book

Publishers will reportedly be going to auction with the book this February. Mezrich has quite the best-seller past behind his back. He is also an Academy-award winner for The Social Network with Aaron Sorkin – a movie that also featured the famous twins.

His book “Bitcoin Billionaires” cherished international best-selling fame and also turned into a movie (The Midnight Ride).

As CryptoPotato reported, Gamestop’s shares experienced a significant surge after rebel actions by the subreddit’s group, the WallStreetBets. Supported by many enthusiasts, the initiative brought the fight to several giant Wall Street hedge funds, which had already shorted the shares of GameStop, a struggling video game distributor.

However, the Reddit enthusiasts went the other way around, buying and holding shares and stock options of the gaming company. Thus, causing Gamestop’s market value to soar more than 1,700% since December, while its market value has added over $10 billion between Tuesday and Wednesday.

By doing so, the group reportedly harmed several of the world’s most powerful hedge funds. According to estimations from S3 Partners, the Wall Street giants lost north of $23 billion in a few weeks from the GameStop frenzy.


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Elon Musk: “I Am A Supporter Of Bitcoin”

Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, has publicly confirmed that he has taken the orange pill. 

Last week, he added “#Bitcoin” to his Twitter description and set Bitcoin Twitter off on an eruption of good vibes. Now, he has publicly voiced his support for Bitcoin on audio chat app Clubhouse. Late last night, Musk joined a Clubhouse led by the team at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to discuss all things of interest. He discussed the probability of a manned Mars mission, how his team has monkeys playing video games via Neuralink and, most importantly, made a public endorsement of Bitcoin. 

He shared a story about how a friend of his had a Bitcoin-themed cake made and fed him a piece of it in 2013. 

“I think Bitcoin is a good thing,” he said. “I am a supporter of Bitcoin. I am late to the party but a supporter. I think Bitcoin is on the verge of getting broad acceptance by conventional finance people.”

See Also

After Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, changed his Twitter bio to “bitcoin,” attention and the price surged.

Asie from his glowing words for Bitcoin, Musk held no punches back in welcoming Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev to the Clubhouse chat, calling him “Vlad The Stock Impaler.” Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in both Clubhouse and Robinhood and it would stand to reason that it wants to facilitate some redemption for Robinhood among its users following the company’s recent actions in the r/wallstreetbets saga. 

Ultimately, many Bitcoiners saw this endorsement from Musk as a coup for BTC. It also served as another great example that everything is recorded and scrutinized, even chats on Clubhouse.


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Miami’s Mayor Leads The Charge To Bring Bitcoin To America’s Largest Cities

Miami’s mayor, Mayor Francis Suarez, has been busy adding a personalized touch in trying to bring tech entrepreneurs to Miami. Striving to combine the financial elements of New York City and the technology character of San Francisco into a South Florida finance and tech oasis, the mayor is bringing a different attitude and policy outlook on innovation. Among one of the many areas this vision affects is bitcoin — something he believes, in an interview with Forbes, will be the “biggest story of the next few years.”

The mayor admits he’s always been fascinated with the idea of bitcoin. Its mathematical nature appeals to him and he’s aware of the growing popularity of bitcoin among the American people. There are three tangible paths the city is taking to expand its bitcoin-friendly nature:

  1. Miami is considering giving city employees the opportunity to get their salaries paid in bitcoin
  2. Local fees and taxes could be paid in bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency
  3. Finally, the city’s treasury might place some of its investment capital into bitcoin, which would be a first for major cities in the United States (and perhaps in the world)

While in exact percentage or absolute terms, the mayor hasn’t got an exact figure for how much investment he wants to place — yet he knows he wants to structure it in a public-private partnership where private partners can take some of the reward for defraying risk from the public side.

An hypothetical example with arbitrary numbers: the city would invest about $250,000 in public funds into a fund that would be supplemented with $750,000 in private bitcoin from three large investors. The private investors would get the first funds out to guarantee their return, while the city would benefit from anything left.


Using the city’s investment powers creates a lot of potential, but also some risk. For example, Miami’s treasury, according to the mayor’s recollection, doesn’t hold any commodities and mostly sticks to cash and cash equivalents. This makes his intent in this field a strong statement of interest in what holding bitcoin can do for the city of Miami.

He’s also keeping an eye out on the bitcoin ecosystem and events, having spoken at a bitcoin event a couple of years ago, and looking to bring the Bitcoin 2021 Conference to Miami.

Finally, the mayor is considering financing his reelection campaign in bitcoin, joining a small selection of politicians who have raised funds in bitcoin. Combined with his social media presence, the efforts could bear fruit that helps solidify his tech-friendly persona, as well as the treasury for his next re-election.

Beyond just efforts for his city, Mayor Francis is also reaching out and learning from other states and jurisdictions — and making efforts to bring Wyoming-style laws on bitcoin to Florida, having reached out to Caitlin Long of Wyoming fame and speaking with Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis about bringing a bill in the state legislature that would bring Wyoming-style bitcoin regulations to Florida.

The mayor concluded the interview by saying that many people “underestimated this story” (the story of bitcoin) and it looks like with these actions, he isn’t going to be one of them. The mayor of Miami is combining its hosting of innovators with a drive to bring bitcoin to the stage.


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XRP Posts Wild “Pump and Dump” as Retail Buyers Give Whales an Exit

  • The Wall Street Bets phenomenon recent took a grasp of the crypto market, with an army of retail investors first targeting Dogecoin before setting their sights on XRP
  • XRP saw some slow momentum at first, but rumors regarding a “pump and dump” Telegram chat looking to rocket its price quickly circulated
  • This led many traders to jump into positions hoping for a quick swing trade, which further perpetuated the movement
  • Its price rocketed from the upper-$0.20 region to highs of $0.75 overnight before it plummeted
  • One trader is now noting that this rally provided a perfect exit pump for whales who were looking to exit in light of the recent SEC lawsuit

XRP has been one of the worst-performing altcoins in 2021, with news of the SEC’s lawsuit against Ripple catalyzing a massive selloff that sent the token plunging from nearly $1.00 to lows of $0.17.

Its price action in the time since has been quite lackluster, but it gained some massive momentum over the past couple of days that erased all of the SEC-related losses.

One trader is calling this a final exit pump for whales, noting that profits from XRP are likely to roll over into other cryptocurrencies in the near-term.

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XRP Explodes Higher Before Collapsing

At the time of writing, XRP is trading down 11% at its current price of $0.44.

The cryptocurrency surged to highs of $0.75 earlier today before it lost its momentum as saw a massive decline that, for a brief period, sent it down nearly 50%.

Its price has recovered slightly in the time since, but bears are still in control as it struggles to gain any momentum.

It remains unclear as to whether or not the army of retail buyers and members of the pump and dump Telegram group will be able to spark another round of gains or if it will continue plunging from here.

Analyst: Retail Investors Give Whales a Final Exit Pump

One analyst believes that this could be a final exit pump that ends as large whales take it as their chance to get out of XRP.

It appears that this is the case, as the intense selling suggests that large holders likely exited their positions at $0.75.

“So many whales bag-holding XRP, one exit pump was not enough, they needed two. Nevertheless, a lot of money is about to flow into big-caps as soon as it’s over.”



Image Courtesy of Galaxy. Source: XRPUSD on TradingView.

The coming few days should shine some light on just how strong the army of retail investors entering the market is.

Featured image from Unsplash.
Charts from TradingView.


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Blockchain tech makes sustainable development goals more achievable

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres estimates trillions of U.S. dollars per annum is needed to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The question is: “Where would it come from?” Official development aid, philanthropy and public finances cannot suffice, which means the needle is moving toward private capital to fund sustainable development projects.

Related: The UN’s ‘decade of delivery’ needs blockchain to succeed

But the gap between financing and the environmental impact does not exude the confidence of private investors to fund development projects. India, a center of sustainability risks and innovative interventions, offers an example of this gap. Between 2014–2015 and 2018–19, corporate social responsibility, or CSR, spent by the approximately 1,100 listed Indian corporates grew at a rate of 16%, while India’s score on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index grew by roughly 1% compound annual growth rate, or CAGR. Ironically, most CSR spending by Indian companies goes to education and health — the very sectors the HDI index focuses on.

It is time for blockchain tech

Can blockchain technology be a workable solution? It can because development projects conduct measuring, reporting and verification, or MRV, processes measure the outcome and impact of projects. Most readers are aware that distributed ledger technology stores data batches in blocks on the network, and the need for independent verification from the network’s users makes the records transparent, secure, verifiable, and immutable. These are the very attributes by which blockchain can improve the MRV processes, thus improving data auditability and reducing misreporting/fraud of data. This can incentivize private capital to consider investing in this space.

Moreover, if we must identify the precise activity of a typical development project where blockchain technology can be leveraged, then it would collect and time-stamp project-level data for monitoring purposes. The challenge is many resource-crunched development projects, especially in developing countries, still collect field data by hand, which can lead to inaccuracies, mistakes and fraud. With a blockchain, such data can be collected and reported in a secure, transparent and verifiable manner.

What also adds adverse effects is the local institutions in the developing countries that implement such projects often lack the systems to ensure the data they report is verifiable. Weak regulations in such countries make it difficult to hold such local institutions to account. Add to this the distance between foreign investors and these local projects, and it becomes harder to stay on the same level.

Blockchain can reduce the data risks of local-level institutions, improve the validity of the data they report for impact, and instill confidence in foreign private donors/investors to fund such development projects.

Blockchain and MRV processes

What this implies is more financing flow can be committed to the local level. Back in 2017, the International Institute for Environment and Development estimated that only 10% of the $60 billion in public and private climate finance is directly committed to the local level, which is partly due to such perceived data risks. Using blockchain to improve MRV can facilitate greater access to capital for local-level institutions.

With blockchain enabling local projects to report verifiable performance as part of their MRV processes, local development institutions can gain a greater supply of capital. The Amazon in Brazil is an example. The Rainforest project uses blockchain and the Internet of Things to record and transfer data from electrical meters, robotic appliances and emission monitors on the environmental impact. Remote sensing satellites independently verify the status of patches, upon which blockchain smart contracts directly reward the farmers who preserve their rainforest patches. The outcome data is verifiable, and the exclusion of intermediaries while transferring incentives minimizes administrative costs and the siphoning of funds.

Blockchain-enabled MRV processes help disintermediate the intermediaries in a social or sustainability bond issuance, thus reducing issuance costs and making it possible for small enterprises to access the bond market or aggregate smaller assets into bonds. Already, leading Spanish bank BBVA uses blockchain to structure green bonds and loans.

As long as limitations such as internet capacity and technology literacy can be overcome, blockchain’s revolutionary role in improving the MRV processes around data can mobilize more private capital investments for development projects executed by local-level institutions in developing countries.

This article was co-authored by Sourajit Aiyer and Jae-Hoon Kwak.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Sourajit Aiyer is a consultant at South Asia Fast Track Sustainability Communications. Previously, he worked with traditional and sustainable finance organizations. He has written three books, over 160 articles for 60 publications, given over 30 guest-talks at various universities and conferences, and curated 20 webinars with over 50 international domain-experts.

Jae-Hoon Kwak is the CEO at Pan-Impact Korea, a company focusing on social impact via innovative technologies.