Russian Court Overturns Ban on Access to Bitcoin Websites

Bitcoin Magazine
Russian Court Overturns Ban on Access to Bitcoin Websites
kremlin

Interest in bitcoin and blockchain technology by business and governments around the world increased in the past months. However, many governments have yet to take an official stance on digital currencies while some have placed restrictions or regulations on the use of Bitcoin. Russia was one of these countries, as it blocked access to websites with information about Bitcoin.

The ban was implemented by the City Court Nevyansk on the basis that these sites contained information which was prohibited in the Russian Federation. The ban began on January 13th 2015 and included access to the following sites:

Bitcoin.org
Indacoin.com
Coinspot.ru
Hasbitcoin.ru
Bitcoinconf.ru
Bitcoin.it
BTCsec.com

However, on May 15th, 2015, a Sverdlovsk Regional Court overturned a ruling from City Court Nevyansk about blocking sites with information about digital currencies.

Bitcoin Magazine spoke with Ivan Tikhonov, the owner of BTCsec.com to gather more information about this court decision. Ivan learned about Bitcoin in 2011, and at that time, there was virtually no information on Bitcoin sites in Russian. Seeing an opportunity, Ivan launched BTCsec.com.

“The decision of the court Nevyansk about the blocks was canceled because it clearly violates the laws of Russia,” said Tikhonov.

In August of 2014, the Russian Minister of Finance Alexei Moiseev announced proposals to ban the issuance of bitcoin and any operations related to cryptocurrency in the spring of 2015. The announcement prompted several bitcoin and digital currency companies operating in Russia to exclude the Russian market from their business operations. With the overturn of this ban, entrepreneurs are like Tikhonov are optimistic. “This is good. Now there is a chance that people will be able to obtain objective information. We will be able to legally work these technologies,” said Tikhonov.

Speaking about public perception of bitcoin in Russia, he added, “There are those who are well aware of what is Bitcoin and refer to it well. Those who do not know, consider it a pyramid or a Ponzi scheme.” The recent court decision will help inform people about the true value of digital currencies without fear of violating any laws. “I believe that Bitcoin and other decentralized modern technology can improve our lives. At least, cheaper remittances replace outdated accounting systems and provide new business opportunities,” he said.

As bitcoin gains international recognition, more governments will be forced to take an official stance on bitcoin. Will governments see digital currency as a threat or as an opportunity for their country to create value in a new, burgeoning industry? Only time will tell.

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XAPO Relocates Corporate Headquarters to Privacy-Friendly Switzerland
zurich

Xapo, a provider of secure bitcoin wallet and vault storage solutions deemed “the Fort Knox of bitcoin,” announced that it is relocating its corporate headquarters to Zurich, Switzerland. The company will retain a small presence in its previous home base in Palo Alto, California to serve U.S. customers, but its main operations will move to the new home base.

Xapo’s primary deep cold storage vault is already located in Switzerland (the precise location hasn’t been disclosed), with additional secure sites deployed around the globe.

“[A]t the request of our expanding global customer base, now is the time to bring our center of operations closer to the heart of our security infrastructure,” the announcement reads. “The country’s regulatory stability, international neutrality and its deep-seated tradition in global finance also factored into the decision.”

Xapo’s deep cold storage servers are housed in radio wave-blocking Faraday cages and secured behind military-grade security controls deep within reinforced underground bunkers. All vaults utilize multi-signature transaction authorization, and withdrawals must be signed by at least three of five deep cold storage sites around the world. For extra physical security, Xapo has partnered with satellite surveillance service provider Satellogic.

In August 2014, Xapo became the first Bitcoin services company to complete a Service Organization Control 2 (SOC2) Type I audit, a widely recognized auditing standard against which service providers are able to report and validate their internal security controls. Customers’ funds are covered by two separate insurance policies against cyber-theft, hacking attacks, physical break-ins and employee dishonesty.

That shows how Xapo wants to take all measures to protect its current and future customers’ funds from all risks and threats.

“[O]ur fiduciaries are protected by our vault, which uses private keys that never touch the client or the Internet and are buried deep within geographically dispersed, heavily guarded locations with multi-signature technology for transaction signing,” notes the announcement. “We have customized security protocols to reduce the likelihood of theft through social engineering, phishing or brute force hacks, and offer full insurance in the unlikely event that these systems are compromised.”

Though not explicitly stated in the announcement, it seems evident that Xapo needs to protect its key customers from the possibility that the political climate in the United States might become unfriendly to crypto-currencies, and therefore decided to move to a country with strong privacy and banking secrecy traditions. The linked page “Why Switzerland?” is more explicit:

“Switzerland has a long tradition of protecting both personal and financial privacy. The fundamental right to personal privacy is established as part of Article 13 of the Swiss Federal Constitution, and the protection of personal financial information is still maintained today by the provisions of the Swiss Banking Law of 1934.”

The page also notes that the Swiss spirit of independence endures, with Switzerland remaining apart from the European Union, and deciding participation in any non-governmental organization by popular referendum. The country protects its multiple borders, and national sovereignty, with an active military force of professional soldiers and civilian reservists.

“This is not to facilitate crime, this is to protect privacy,” Xapo CEO Wences Casares told CoinDesk. “There are some customers that will bring more balances if we do this and there are some customers who have said we will work with you if you do this.”

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Three Blockchain Startups Join Startupbootcamp Fintech Singapore’s Inaugural Accelerator Batch
singapore

Blockchain-based marketplace DeBuNe, bitcoin wallet Cryptosigma and blockchain equity issuer Otonomos, have been accepted to the first batch of Startupbootcamp (SBC) Fintech Singapore’s accelerator program. The startups will be given funding, free office space, access to business support services and a large network of industry experts and venture capitalists.

The three digital currency startups join seven other startups in the program, which are made up of peer-to-peer wallets, money management apps, a social network for financial trading and more. All of the startups will receive three months of acceleration, 24,000 Singapore dollars (about $18,000 USD) and access to pilot customers, industry data, APIs and capital from SBC partners, such as DBS Bank, MasterCard and Route 66 Ventures.

“Since the beginning of the year, we have scoured the Asia Pacific and the globe for the most fascinating, innovative and promising fintech startups,” said Startupbootcamp FinTech Global COO, Markus Gnirck. “With 300 applications it shows that fintech in Asia is on the rise to tackle local problems with the potential for global scale. We have met close to 200 startups, visited 12 financial hubs across APAC and beyond. So we feel confident that the 10 teams selected showcase the very best that financial services and technology has to offer.”

Blockchain Apps For Asia

By digital currency standards, Bitcoin has seen a lot of adoption in China, the Philippines and other parts of Asia, but blockchain apps have not been as prevalent in the region as they have been in places such as Silicon Valley. These startups hope to use the different uses of the blockchain to solve problems unique to the region.

Created by former IT professional Roberto Capodieci, DeBuNe dreams big and aims to give Asian companies a more transparent way to conduct business by using the blockchain of alternative cryptocurrency, NXT. The startup, which is focusing on small- to medium-sized businesses, will use the transaction data stored on the blockchain to give businesses a reputation that can boost trade.

Cryptosigma, on the other hand, is a more conventional Bitcoin product, as it allows people to send and receive bitcoin and exchange between the digital currency and fiat money. The app does have several extra features that come with the app, such as a debit card, the ability to withdraw money at ATMs and send money to friends and family. The app hopes to give users the benefits of cryptocurrency without having to touch or hold the actual digital currency.

Calling themselves the world’s first blockchain-chartered company, Otonomos, aims to simplify the process of issuing equity for businesses in Asia. The startup will allow anyone to create company shares on the Bitcoin blockchain. Benefits include sending equity peer-to-peer, being able to crowdfund equity or add new private investors easily. Though in legally uncertain waters, their blockchain “incorporation” service is live.

All of these startups remain extremely early-stage and experimental, but Head of Emerging Payments at MasterCard Asia Pacific Raj Dhamodharan remains optimistic about the future of the blockchain startups, as well as the others in the acceleration program.

“I have been very impressed by the overall quality of the ideas coming out of the Asia Pacific region and am really looking forward to working with these 10 startups to see how they develop over the coming months,” Dhamodharan said. “Staying at the forefront of developments in tech will be crucial for financial services over the coming decade. Startupbootcamp is a great way to ensure that innovation is tackling real concerns.”

 

Image via Startupbootcamp FinTech

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