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| January 24, 2018

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Stocks rally; Dow closes above 26,000 points for the first time

January 18, 2018 |

A broad rally on Wall Street propelled the Dow Jones industrial average to close above 26,000 points for the first time Wednesday.

The sharp gains also delivered record highs for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Nasdaq composite, wiping out the market’s modest losses from a day earlier.


L.A. Times – Business

Cherokee Nation Recognizes MLK Day for the First Time

January 16, 2018 |

Cherokee Nation leaders are marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day by acknowledging the tribe needs to come to terms with its treatment of former slaves, known as Freedmen. The tribe—one of the country’s largest—recognized the King holiday for the first time Monday with participation in a parade and…
Newser

Trump Keeps US in Iran Nuclear Deal for 3rd Time

January 13, 2018 |

He called it “the worst deal ever,” and on Friday he extended it for the third time during his presidency, the New York Times reports. A senior administration official tells Politico that President Trump once again chose not to reinstate the sanctions that were suspended as part of the 2015…
Newser

Oprah’s Message to ‘Brutally Powerful Men’: ‘Time Is Up’

January 8, 2018 |

Host Seth Meyers joked about Oprah Winfrey running for president in his opening monologue at the Golden Globes—and after giving what the Independent calls “one of the most iconic speeches of all time” at the awards show, Oprah seems to have the speech-making part of the job nailed. Winfrey…
Newser

Tim Cook Stumbles at His Specialty, Shipping Apple Products on Time

January 6, 2018 |

Under CEO Tim Cook, Apple has been late shipping new devices, delayed by factors including a large and growing global customer base, and more sophisticated technology.
WSJ.com: US Business

Dow Closes Over 25K for 1st Time Ever

January 4, 2018 |

The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 25,000 points for the first time, just five weeks after its first close above 24,000, the AP reports. Technology companies, which put up some of the biggest gains in the last year, continued to outpace the rest of the market Thursday….
Newser

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

January 4, 2018 |

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

Ripple has been the talk of the town lately thanks to its rocketing value and growing market capitalization that’s making eyes at bitcoin. $ 1,000 of XRP bought a year ago would be worth half a million dollars today. But away from the price action, there’s an issue bugging ripple that just won’t go away. It’s been alleged for years that Ripple Labs has the power to freeze the balances of account holders. If true, it would be a major cause for concern, especially for proponents of decentralized currency.

Also read: Rising Ripple Threatens to Usurp Bitcoin and Usher In “The Rippening”

The Big Freeze

The origins of the Ripple freeze go as follows: In August 2014, Ripple quietly introduced a feature called Freeze. It was put to the test a few months later when Ripple cofounder Jed McCaleb tried to cash out some of his billions in XRP after leaving the company. He’d previously signed an agreement to sell no more than $ 10,000 of XRP a week, only to attempt to clear $ 1 million worth through Bitstamp in one go.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any TimeUpon learning of McCaleb’s actions, Ripple intervened and prevented him from doing so, utilizing its Balance Freeze feature. Built into Ripple gateways such as Bitstamp by default, it enables the company to stop the movement of XRP. During the brouhaha that followed, Bitstamp, caught in the middle, filed a lawsuit to settle the dispute between McCaleb and Ripple Labs.

2015 was a lifetime ago in cryptocurrency, and a lot has happened since then to all of the players caught up in the spat, and to the industry as a whole. Bitstamp, Ripple, and McCaleb would all aver that they’ve moved on to bigger and better things: the former reporting record turnover and trading volume, and McCaleb launching Stellar, whose market cap has quadrupled in a matter of days, catapulting it into the top 10. And then there’s Ripple, which is going great guns.

The Case for the Defense

Ripple’s transformation from sluggish cryptocurrency into the hottest ticket in town has been rapid: three months ago, no one wanted to know. Now, traders of all genders, demographics, and territories are invested in ripple, and not just financially, but emotionally too. Anyone who buys an unfancied coin and then watches it moon can’t help but feel a sense of vindication, and a newfound appreciation for the project. At this stage, anything that threatens the coin’s upward trajectory – such as negative news – risks being shot down.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

In a report on ripple’s meteoric rise this week, news.Bitcoin.com mentioned the “big freeze”, linking to another recent article on the site which explains this in more detail. Ripple’s defenders hotly dispute the facts of the matter, though, highlighting a sentence on Ripple’s Freeze page which states: “No one can freeze XRP”.

So what’s the truth of the matter? Can Ripple freeze users’ funds or not?

An Uncomfortable Half-Truth

The answer to Ripple’s capabilities lies in a document the company released in 2014 introducing Balance Freeze and stating:

The freeze protocol extension gives gateways the ability to…freeze funds issued to a particular user. Frozen funds may only be sent back to the gateway who issued them. The global freeze feature allows a gateway to freeze all balances issued by it.

When you purchase cryptocurrency on an exchange, your account is assigned a virtual balance – a token essentially – correlating to your holdings. Buy 1 BTC, for example, and nothing moves on the blockchain. All that happens is that your USD and BTC account balances are updated. It’s only once a user makes a withdrawal request that an on-chain transaction takes place.

Ripple uses a distributed ledger called the Ripple protocol which each Ripple gateway – essentially a bank – keeps a record of. Bitstamp, Gatehub, and The Rock Trading are some of the major gateways partnered with Ripple. Purchase ripple on Bitstamp, for example, and the transaction won’t show up on the Ripple protocol. The ledger will only record the movement of funds when they are withdrawn from the Bitstamp wallet to the customer’s XRP wallet.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

The phrase “No one can freeze XRP” is thus a half-truth. Ripple does not possess the power to magically remove the funds from a customer’s personal XRP wallet. For example, it can’t plunder the funds that a holder has stored on their Nano S. If those funds are stored with a Ripple gateway that hasn’t opted out of Freeze, however, they can be locked up. Not only can the XRP be frozen, but so can the account balances associated with its sale, such as USD.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any TimeRipple’s defenders claim that in this respect, ripple is no different from any other cryptocurrency. If Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin had 10,000 ETH stolen from him and sent to Bitstamp, for example, he could probably pressure the exchange into freezing that ether while the matter was investigated. The difference with Ripple is that the company has developed a special relationship with its gateways which gives these “banks” unprecedented powers to freeze individual counts on a whim, or on the say-so of Ripple, law enforcement, or regulators.

Not only does Ripple encourage the XRP of suspicious accounts to be frozen, but “The financial institution should also freeze the counterparty in any other systems the financial institution operates that are connected to the XRP Ledger”. Your bitcoin; your litecoin; your euros; anything connected to a Ripple gateway can be locked down. No other cryptocurrency has a similar framework in place, which grants exchanges unprecedented powers to lock up funds at the drop of a hat.

A Frosty Reception for Centralized Currencies

No one is suggesting that Ripple Labs has a desire to freeze anyone’s funds. That’s not good for business. Nevertheless, a cryptocurrency which enables a centralized authority to freeze funds at the touch of a button defeats the entire purpose of cryptocurrency. Most people have no objection to stemming the funding of terrorists and money launderers. Once a kill switch is created, however, it leads to a slippery slope in which anyone suspected of misbehavior can have their funds seized.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any TimeAs Ripple explains, the feature provides the ability “to freeze individual accounts issuances in order to investigate suspicious activity”. Owning XRP in a country that is hostile to cryptocurrency; possessing an unusually large amount of XRP; signing up to a Ripple gateway exchange from a banned country: all could be grounds for freezing your account.

If law enforcement suspected a cryptocurrency holder was engaged in criminal behavior, they could try to obtain a subpoena granting permission to seize that individual’s exchange balance – and would be required to submit evidence to show there was probable cause for doing so. But if that exchange happened to be a Ripple gateway, they could simply pick up the phone and ask for the Big Button of Freeze to be pressed. And that’s the difference between ripple and other cryptocurrencies.

Keeping so much as 1 XRP on a gateway exchange would technically be enough to see all of your fiat and crypto balances frozen. There are ways to obtain and transact XRP without going near a gateway that possesses special powers. In a world of decentralized cryptocurrencies, however, purveyors of financial freedom may prefer to look elsewhere.

Do you think Ripple’s freeze function is a cause for concern? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


Tired of those other forums on the subject of Bitcoin? Check forum.Bitcoin.com.

The post Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time appeared first on Bitcoin News.

Bitcoin News

Dow tops 25,000 points for the first time as stocks rise

January 4, 2018 |

The Dow Jones industrial average traded above 25,000 points for the first time, blasting through another 1,000-point milestone.

The Dow’s latest breakthrough came in early trading Thursday and just five weeks after closing above 24,000 points for the first time.

Technology companies and banks had…


L.A. Times – Business

Annual U.S. Car Sales Drop for First Time Financial Crisis

January 3, 2018 |

The U.S. auto industry in 2017 likely suffered its first annual sales decline since the financial crisis eight years ago, as demand finally ebbs after a remarkable multiyear growth spurt.
WSJ.com: US Business

Stocks start the year strong; Nasdaq closes above 7,000 for the first time

January 3, 2018 |

Technology and healthcare companies jumped Tuesday as U.S. stocks started the new year the same way they spent the last one: rising steadily and setting records. Energy companies, which struggled in 2017, also climbed.

Asian markets rose after surveys in China and India showed continued manufacturing…


L.A. Times – Business