The activation of Bitcoin’s (BTC) Taproot upgrade is moving forward as official Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIP) were submitted for review on Jan. 24. Even though Taproot is often hyped up for its privacy improvements, its true impact is likely to be very minor.
Taproot is the name given to a proposal coined by former Blockstream CTO Gregory Maxwell in January 2018. The actual implementation was later developed by a team of Bitcoin contributors led by Pieter Wuille. Taproot is a proposal that enhances Bitcoin’s scripts, a set of instructions attached to each transaction that explains how the funds can be used. In its simplest form, a Bitcoin transaction is secured by the recipient’s public key, which guarantees that only he can spend them. Scripts can support more complicated features, like time-locks and multi-signature requirements.
The former can restrict money to only be spent after a certain point in time. The latter makes it possible to create wallets with multiple owners. The conditions can be added together, so that there would be multiple options on how to spend the money. For example, the script might say that the funds can be moved immediately if three people agree, or after five days if only two of them do. In Bitcoin’s current implementation, the full scope of the smart contract needs to be revealed when its beneficiary wants to use the money.
That means that if only one of the conditions was triggered, everyone would know that there were others. Taproot removes the need to publish the entire script, and only shows the condition that was triggered. In addition, multi-signature contracts where all parties agreed on a transaction can avoid revealing the fact that there was a script at all. To an external observer it would look like an individual wallet-to-wallet transaction, assuming the parties involved are in full cooperation.
This is made possible by a different feature called Schnorr signatures, which is encoded in BIP 340. Schnorr is considered a more secure and efficient version of elliptic curve cryptography, which is what underpins the system driving private and public keys. The proposal is currently under evaluation, but there are no estimates available for its activation.
Finnish Customs No Sure What To Do with 15M Euro Seized in Bitcoin
While some governments are selling bitcoins (BTC) confiscated through law enforcement actions, Finland is yet to decide what to do with its seized BTC. Finnish Customs, operating under the Ministry of Finance, has reportedly been deliberating about what to do with 1,666 bitcoins seized from drug criminals years ago. As reported by Finland’s national public broadcasting firm on Feb. 25, the Finnish Customs service doesn’t want to auction the confiscated Bitcoin because the cryptocurrency could be returned to the hands of criminals.
According to the report, at the time of the seizure the amount of confiscated Bitcoin was worth less than 700,000 euros, or roughly $760,000. As of press time, 1,666 BTC is worth nearly 15 million euros — or more than $15.5 million, according to data from Coin360. The authority was reportedly initially planning to auction the funds back in 2018, but eventually ended up with hodling the crypto, citing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) concerns. Pekka Pylkkänen, head of finance at the Finnish Customs service, said that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are primarily used for illicit practices:
“From our point of view, the problems are specifically related to the risk of money laundering. The buyers of cybercurrency rarely use them for normal endeavours.”
Apart from holding over $15 million in Bitcoin, Finnish Customs also holds a number of seized altcoins worth of millions of euros, the report notes.
Whatever the reason behind Finnish Customs’ decision to hodl the confiscated crypto, the authority is apparently not alone in thinking that Bitcoin and other cryptos might be more dangerous than cash in terms of money laundering. In July 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced an extremely sceptical opinion of Bitcoin, arguing that cash is not laundered in the same way as Bitcoin. Meanwhile, other countries over the world do not appear so concerned about taking profits from hodling Bitcoin.
On Feb. 18, the United States Marshals Service sold another batch of Bitcoin confiscated during its enforcement operations. According to data compiled by well-known crypto industry figure Jameson Lopp, the U.S. Marshals has missed out on over $1.7 billion by selling seized Bitcoin too early. The agency has confiscated and sold 185,230 bitcoins, according to Lopp’s data.
Bitcoin Gold May Be Held Captive by Whale With Almost Half The Supply
Bitcoin Gold (BTG)’s price is being manipulated by a whale controlling close to half of the circulating supply. These are the findings of an analysis conducted by an independent trader and analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous. He published his findings in a blog post, where he explained why he believes a single group of people accumulated their way into a huge Bitcoin Gold position, and are now using that supply to control the market.
The events started in August 2018, when Bitfinex margin long positions began its sharp ascent to include almost two million BTG. The exchange makes its margin data publicly available, which can help gauge the general trader sentiment in a particular coin — for example by comparing the ratio of short and long positions.
In Bitcoin Gold’s case, the strong increase in margin positions was accompanied by lackluster price action. While the coin generally followed the broader crypto market, the price eventually spiraled downward.
The analyst estimated that the 1.9 million BTG held at some point in Bitfinex represents between 38% and 48% of its total circulating supply. Bitcoin Gold was born in 2017 after a network fork from Bitcoin (BTC), thus maintaining its original history up until that point. This means that Bitcoin Gold contains at least as many inactive coins as its parent, including Satoshi’s cache. He further elaborated how he reached that figure:
“Over 11 million Bitcoins (BTC) haven’t moved in the last year. Considering big wallets’ unwillingness to claim their coins due to fear of private key leak for a minimal return, it can be argued that a number even larger than 11 million BTGs are inactive or lost forever.”
He then estimated a figure of 4 to 5 million active BTG. When asked by Cointelegraph why he is so certain that this is the work of one whale, he explained:
“The accumulation was very consistent and systematic over the course of almost a year, it would be almost impossible for it to be a coincidence that multiple entities were using the exact same system to accumulate.”
DeCurret Partners with KDDI So They Can Test A Digital Currency
As the origin of cryptocurrency, Japan often leads the way when it comes to joint projects between companies in different fields, united by their desire to lead the pack in innovation. E-commerce giant Rakuten partnered with the East Japan Railway Company on June 5 to promote a cashless payment system.
A new collaboration is in progress between the Japanese telecom giant KDDI and crypto exchange DeCurret. According to a Feb. 18 press release, the two companies — in collaboration with au Financial Holdings and WebMoney — will conduct a joint-project to test digital currency issued on a blockchain for real-world transactions.
As part of the implementation for this test, KDDI will make requests to WebMoney to issue and distribute digital currency, while the latter’s parent company au Financial Holdings manages the joint project. DeCurret will take a lead role by providing the platform for both the issuance and management of the digital currency.
The joint-project, which runs from Feb. 18 to Feb. 28, is part of DeCurret’s efforts to increase the range of services on their platform. In this case, the platform will be tested using cryptocurrency for real-world transactions like those at cafes. DeCurrent has come a long way since its launch in April 2019. The crypto exchange has already gotten regulatory approval from Japan’s Financial Services Agency to allow its users to refill the country’s Suica transportation cards by using cryptocurrency.
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