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article imageSome users closing Coinbase accounts in protest at aqcuisition

By Ken Hanly     Mar 2, 2019 in Technology
San Francisco - The hash tag #deletecoinbase is ringing out across Twitter as some bitcoin users are closing their accounts on the exchange as a protest against Coinbase's acquisition of Neutrino.
The issue
The issue is not to do with Neutrino per se but Neutrino executives: CTO Alberto Ornaghi, CEO Ginacarlo Russo, and CRO Marco Valleri. The three previously spearheaded the startup Hacking Team. The Hacking Team sold spyware to several governments that are well known for human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. In Saudi Arabia this included working with the enforcement group accused in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Hacking Team website in Italy claims: "We believe that fighting crime should be easy: we provide effective, easy-to-use offensive technology to the worldwide law enforcement and intelligence communities."
A recent Vice article notes: "Normally, such an acquisition wouldn’t make many waves, but Neutrino isn’t your average startup. The company was founded by three former employees of Hacking Team, a controversial Italian surveillance vendor that was caught several times selling spyware to governments with dubious human rights records, such as Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan."
The founders of Neutrino, however, are not part of that industry anymore. Some people think that Coinbase shouldn’t forget their past. But for Coinbase, what matters is the technology they developed since leaving the spyware industry.
Not clear how widespread account closure is
In a Google search of the #deletecoinbase hash tag produced above 500 results. Not all of them are unique of course and some may have been before the acquisition was announced. It is likely a small percentage of the 13 million Coinbase accounts.
A recent Coindesk article reports several tweets on the issue and also notes: Meltem Demirors, founder of Shiny Pony Ventures and chief strategy officer at the asset manager CoinShares, told CoinDesk she will no longer use Coinbase after this incident. “There are so many other services out there that do [blockchain analysis] that don’t have these reputational issues, and frankly the ethical issues that some of these Neutrino founders have,” Demirors said. “This example, to me, clashes with all the messages [Coinbase] are trying to put out there about creating an open financial system, a more inclusive financial system.”“This acquisition of Neutrino supports the idea of using bitcoin for surveillance capitalism.”
Coinbase had declined to comment on the number of users leaving the platform at the time of the publication of the above referenced article. Coinbase has headquarters in San Francisco California.
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