Coinbase buys firm with spyware ties, risks losing users

Coinbase Neutrino acquisition
In February 2019, Coinbase, a major cryptocurrency exchange, acquire Neutrino.

Coinbase has bought, Neutrino, a firm with spyware ties, a move that could lose it users. Coinbase is a major cryptocurrency exchange. The company is facing a backlash because the spyware firm has been tied to an Italian company that was accused of selling spyware to repressive regimes.

Neutrino “develops solutions for monitoring, analyzing, and tracking cryptocurrency flows accross multiple blockchains.” has the following definition of spyware:

“Spyware is computer software that allows you to obtain information from another’s computer activities covertly.”

Coinbase bought Neutrino in February 2019

After the takeover went through in February 2019, Coinbase faced push-back from a number of users. The crypto community is generally libertarian-leaning.

Some of Neutrino’s board members were members of Hacking Team, according to a BreakerMag article.

Hacking Team sold spyware to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. It also sold its software to the FBI and DEA (USA), Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Oman.

Motherboard reported that Reporters Without Borders described Hacking Team as an enemy of the Internet.

Bloomberg’s Matthew Leising quoted Tim Swanson, Director of Research at Post Oak Labs, a tech advisory firm, who said:

“With the departure of its head of data science, Coinbase needed to beef up its analytics team and also assuage concerns that it was not in compliance with various legal and regulatory requirements.”

“It is unclear how Neutrino stood out from other service providers, but from a PR standpoint, it likely didn’t help itself.”

What is a cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a kind of digital money. In other words, it is money that only exists electronically.

Its creators designed it to be secure, and in most cases, absolutely anonymous. It is impossible to ‘follow the cryptocurrency money’ trail like you can with dollars, pounds, etc.

It is an online currency that utilizes cryptography, hence its name.

Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies have no central bank to regulate them. They operate independently of any regulatory or supervisory body.