Supremes Uphold Cell Privacy, Hope for Ross Ulbricht

Supremes Uphold Cell Privacy, Hope for Ross Ulbricht

The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision for the case Carpenter v. United States, ruled cops cannot access cell phone tracking information without a warrant. Around the country, privacy advocates and the mainstream media are hailing it as a “landmark” case. We’re told it has implications, “significance” for not only Fourth Amendment searches and seizures, but also for First Amendment expressions of speech. While better than the alternative, Friday’s decision is far from a satisfying answer.  

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Supreme Court Issues Narrow Cell Phone Privacy Victory

For the cryptocurrency community, cell phones, smart phones, mobile phones are a vital part of life. The misnomer is that they’re referred to as “phones.” They’re of course much more. They are computers, hot hard drives many of us use as wallets, storing, at times, hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of decentralized coins.   

“Given the unique nature of cell phone location information,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the slim majority, “the fact that the Government obtained the information from a third party does not overcome Carpenter’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection. The Government’s acquisition of the cell-site records was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.” Supremes Uphold Cell Privacy, Hope for Ross Ulbricht

In the US Constitution, almost as an afterthought, rest Amendments. Twenty seven, in fact, help in large measure to clarify issues later deemed important. In nearly 230 years since its first ratification, the document has only been amended a little better than two dozen times, and its initial ten came as a package. Known as the Bill of Rights, its Fourth Amendment reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fourth is often used as a barrier between ordinary persons and government employees of the martial variety, such as local, state, and national law enforcement. While it’s no panacea, it can be used after the fact to render an arrest or even a conviction moot. Timothy Carpenter’s prosecution was aided by cops using tracking information collected as a matter of course by providers. Essentially, police reverse-engineered Mr. Carpenter’s whereabouts relative to reported crime through his cell phone tower pings. Together with other evidence, Mr. Carpenter was convicted and sentenced to 116 years. He appealed, zeroing in on how key cell tower evidence was obtained unconstitutionally, without a warrant as required by the Fourth. The Court agreed, and the Chief Justice was joined by Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Breyer.

Supremes Uphold Cell Privacy, Hope for Ross Ulbricht

Ross Ulbricht Implications?

To be perfectly honest, Constitutional arguments leave me cold. Superstitious reverence for a document I never signed, and on which my rights were smuggled by virtue of mere circumstance, the DNA lottery, is, to my way of thinking, very queer. Nevertheless, it is the real world system I live under, and so when nine persons chartered with interpreting what that ancient document means as it ultimately relates to my life, I do well to pay attention.

Carpenter doesn’t pretend to be more than narrowly requiring police, in cases involving cell phone tracking, to seek a warrant. Those are easy enough to obtain, as judges in many instances act as law enforcement’s rubber stamp. It’s a speed bump on the way toward a false faith in government’s ability to restrict itself. Probably a great revelation for most Americans is the substance of the case’s facts rather than more abstract principles.

Supremes Uphold Cell Privacy, Hope for Ross Ulbricht

It turns out your every move is being tracked by law enforcement, and it’s possible due to a kind of time machine … a default feature and bug necessary to the function of cell technology. Turn off GPS, and you’re still going to need towers to make your phone work as a phone. So long as that is the case, years later police, with mere permission from a judge, are able to charge you with a crime based on your previous whereabouts. Again, Mr. Carpenter’s case is effectively overturned due to an administrative error, allowing law enforcement to poison the fruit of evidence against him. Had they won a warrant, Mr. Carpenter would have no standing at the Supreme Court.

Carpenter might be a victory in a more important limited sense. Ross Ulbricht’s “legal team believes the outcome of the Fourth Amendment Carpenter case will affect Ross’s petition conference,” these pages reported.  Lyn Ulbricht, Mr. Ulbricht’s tireless mother, explained to Reason the Ulbricht appeal to the Supreme Court is being considered, seemingly “pending another important Fourth Amendment case, Carpenter v. U.S. […] Ross’ case is still before the courts.” Now that the Court has reversed Carpenter, Ms. Ulbricht hopes “they would remand [our case] and return it to the appellate courts. Ross would be back in New York in front of the 2nd Circuit, but with guidance from the Supreme Court […] Then I would hope that they would say we’d have a retrial. At the least, I would hope and pray for a resentencing.” Ross Ulbricht is serving double life. 

Do you think the SCOTUS decision is good for the crypto community? Let us know in the comments. 

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The Daily: Analysts Predict Bitcoin Will Rebound, Enthusiasm for State Coins Lost

The Daily: Analysts Predict Bitcoin Will Rebound, Enthusiasm for State Coins Lost

In today’s Bitcoin in Brief we mention some optimistic mid to long term predictions for crypto markets. And while decentralized currencies are hurting in a bearish month, the prospects for state-issued virtual money look even dimmer. Another senior Swiss central banker has noted the diminishing enthusiasm of governments to mint digital coins. Venezuela gives an example – Caracas has recently fired the nation’s crypto superintendent, reportedly for failing to raise billions through Maduro’s favorite El Petro. 

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Bottom Line: Bitcoin Will Recover

It takes a lot of optimism to make bullish predictions at a moment like this, but if it’s a relatively long term prognosis for growth, preceded by a short term one for further drop, then it does sound like a safe bet. Todd Gordon, founder of Tradinganalysis.com, is one of those analysts who believe the bottom line is that Bitcoin will eventually recover, by early 2019 to be precise.

“I did expect Bitcoin to drop, I thought for a long time we’re going to drop below $5,000,” Gordon told CNBC. He actually expects BTC prices to decrease a little more than that but he is also positive that the market will turn somewhere in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. “I think by the time this contest is over in February, we’ll be well back above $10,000 and in a pretty good shape,” he added.

The Daily: Analysts Predict Bitcoin Will Rebound, Enthusiasm for State Coins Lost

According to Todd Gordon, the correction we have seen from $19,000 down, in terms of percentage drop, is “inconsequential,” and “very much expected,” compared to the gains since 2015, when Bitcoin took about a 78 percent hit in the aftermath of the Mt. Gox hack. “Right now we are about two thirds of the way through that equal correction,” he said.

Gordon noted that his prediction is based on a “beautiful uptrend” on a percent change chart. “You can’t look on bitcoin on a traditional, linear, arithmetic chart,” he warned. The expert emphasized that the current 17 percent average weekly high-to-low range is the “lowest bitcoin is ever seen,” as the movement has reached 30-40 percent at times in the past. “If I am down 30 percent on bitcoin in this contest, that’s nothing – it can make that up in two weeks,” the analyst added.

Others Like the $10,000 Mark Too

Other members of the crypto space have made similar predictions about the mid-term prospects for bitcoin. At the end of May, blockchain venture capitalist Spencer Bogart said he expected the price of BTC to rise again above $10,000 per coin by the end of 2018, noting that the cryptocurrency is still worth buying, despite its continued losses.

The Daily: Analysts Predict Bitcoin Will Rebound, Enthusiasm for State Coins Lost“In the past, when the value of BTC dropped by 50 or 60 percent, a cloud of fear used to develop and people seriously questioned if bitcoin was over,” Bogart told CNBC. However, he highlighted a key difference between today and the crashes of the past – the exponential amount of development and adoption we have seen since those times. Bogart, a partner ат Blockchain Capital, also noted that most coins are overvalued in comparison with bitcoin. He advised investors to sell cryptos like cardano, tron, IOTA and NEO, but stressed they should hold cryptocurrencies like bitcoin cash (BCH), ethereum, ripple, and EOS.

Most cryptocurrencies saw losses of up to 20 percent over a 24-hour period yesterday. Many observes attributed the latest dump to the recent measures taken by Japan’s financial regulator. The Financial Services Agency issued six new business improvement orders to crypto exchanges Bitflyer, Tech Bureau, Bitpoint Japan, Btcbox, Bitbank, and Quoine. In recent weeks markets have been also reacting to a number of negative events such as the hacks of Korean exchanges Coinrail and Bithumb, as well as the exposure of scams and suspected market manipulations.

Enthusiasm for State-Backed Cryptos Dying Out

Countries are unlikely to issue national cryptocurrencies any time soon, according to a high ranking representative of the Swiss National Bank’s management. Central banks around the world have become skeptical of introducing state-backed digital currencies, Thomas Moser, an alternate member of the governing board of SBN, told Business Insider.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of interest and enthusiasm about issuing their own national cryptocurrency but I think, in the meantime, that enthusiasm has slowed again because of the implications it would have for financial stability,” Moser explained. Nevertheless, he said he would not be surprised if national cryptocurrencies emerged in the longer term but noted that currently everyone is waiting for someone else to do it first.

The Daily: Analysts Predict Bitcoin Will Rebound, Enthusiasm for State Coins Lost

Thomas Moser thinks that to some extent it makes sense to have an electronic version of the banknote but warned the implications are substantial. “The advantages are relatively small but the unknown risks are potentially large so I think the balance is to be cautious.”

Moser’s comments reflect the position of another senior representative of Schweizerische Nationalbank. In April, Andrea Maechler, member of its governing board, stated that “private-sector digital currencies” are better and less risky than any version offered by a central bank. A government-backed coin “would deliver scarcely any advantages, but would give rise to incalculable risks,” she warned, noting that it would make it easier for people to withdraw money if they felt a bank was in trouble.

Venezuela’s Crypto Superintendent Reportedly Fired

The Daily: Analysts Predict Bitcoin Will Rebound, Enthusiasm for State Coins LostCarlos Vargas, Venezuela’s Superintendent of Cryptocurrency, has recently left his post. Some local media reported that actually he has been fired by President Maduro after his team failed to deliver on the promises to raise billions through the initial coin offering of the national oil-backed cryptocurrency, the Petro.

According to a publication by Caracas Chronicles, only 2,266 petros have been transferred so far on the distributed ledger that tracks their movement. Even if all of them were sold at $60 per coin, the outlet speculates, the government has raised no more than $136,000. That’s way below the once promised $5 billion.

Very little is known about the new superintendent, Jocelit Ramírez, and his team. He is believed to be very close to Vice President Tareck El Aissami.

Despite threats by officials to restrict decentralized cryptocurrencies and crack down on exchanges, Venezuelan bitcoin trade on platforms like Localbitcoins has spiked in recent months, largely due to the unattractiveness of the hyperinflated national fiat, the bolivar. The socialist government in Caracas has had hard time convincing its partners to accept the petro in bilateral trade. Several weeks ago, India rejected Maduro’s proposal to buy Venezuelan oil at discounted petro prices.

What are your expectations for the future of decentralized cryptocurrencies and state-issued digital coins? Let us know in the comments section below.


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