TL;DR: Shortly after announcing it had acquired security firm Neutrino, popular cryptocurrency exchange bank Coinbase came under severe scrutiny as members of the company previously worked for Hacking Team, and were tied to human rights violations. Outrage over the merger culminated in a spirited, increasing in momentum, social media campaign for users to #deletecoinbase. Once defiant, defending its purchase, the exchange has had a change of heart.
#DeleteCoinbase Scores Partial Win
“Living up to our values and the Neutrino acquisition,” is the title of a blog posted by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong. The company recently purchased Neutrino, a blockchain security and surveillance firm the exchange was sure would increase its value in the eyes of regulators.
However, it turned into a media and public relations nightmare. Reports surfaced members of Neutrino, key executives, were part of the notorious Hacking Team, known for their participation in human rights violations and assisting governments in suppressing dissidents.
Outrage soon spread among crypto enthusiasts, a social media campaign under the hashtag #deletecoinbase grew in momentum, and began to trend. Though the company sent out surrogates to try and temper bad publicity, it seemed only to fuel emotional fires.
On 4 March 2019, Armstrong conceded, “we had a gap in our diligence process,” promising “those who previously worked at Hacking Team (despite the fact that they have no current affiliation with Hacking Team), will transition out of Coinbase.”
He admitted it “was not an easy decision, but their prior work does present a conflict with our mission,” and stopped short of addressing deeper privacy concerns raised alongside the Hacking Team issues. It appears, at least for now, Coinbase will continue with the tech Neutrino offers, analytical software it deems to be “some of the best technology in this area,” Armstrong explained.
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