Community News

This Week in Blockchain 11.30.18

Hacker Blues

The continual problem of centralized data sources reared its ugly head as it was revealed that the Starwood guest reservation database was breached beginning in 2014. Personal information of 500 million guests are now in the hands of, well, who knows. It gets worse:

The company said for 327 million guests, personal information compromised could include passport details, phone numbers and email addresses. For some others, it could include credit card information.

Even though the breach began four years ago, the company claims it only learned about the problem on September 8 of this year. That’s four years of leakage with no oversight. We know we need more security; our current systems are not working. A few months ago I chatted with Chris Boscolo of lifeID about this problem. Dive in to hear what blockchain will offer in terms of data privacy and digital identity.


Honest Advertising

Yesterday I chatted with John Wantz, co-founder of our portfolio company, EVERY, about retail advertising and blockchain (that RCast will be released on 12/11). In the meantime, this fascinating conversation with Lucidity Tech co-founder, Sam Kim, includes his call for more transparency in advertising. Wantz mentioned that the relationship between brands and online advertising platforms is broken, with no real means for creating bonds between brand and consumer (or even insight into the real-world impact of analytics). Kim sees such this lack of transparency as a serious problem:

It’s been the most important issue since programmatic advertising started. Advertisers today have to trust that they are getting what they paid for. But it’s very clear that it is not happening today. It’s like ordering steak at a restaurant but getting a salmon plate instead. And, they insist you pay for it anyway.


Heating Up

One afternoon my apartment suddenly filled with the pungent aroma of burning forest. The source was thirty miles away. As the Woolsey Fire tore through Malibu, a new wind pattern shifted it south to cover my Culver City neighborhood in an eerie grey-pink haze. Everyone I knew was coughing and sniffling long after the smell dissipated. I also had friends lose their homes in an instant.
The problem with climate change, writes Bill McKibben in this week’s New Yorker, is that the term has become so familiar—like “gun violence” and “urban sprawl”—that we tend to read right past it. Yet that doesn’t change the very real impact it’s having on us today. He continues,

The poorest and most vulnerable will pay the highest price. But already, even in the most affluent areas, many of us hesitate to walk across a grassy meadow because of the proliferation of ticks bearing Lyme disease which have come with the hot weather; we have found ourselves unable to swim off beaches, because jellyfish, which thrive as warming seas kill off other marine life, have taken over the water. The planet’s diameter will remain eight thousand miles, and its surface will still cover two hundred million square miles. But the earth, for humans, has begun to shrink, under our feet and in our minds.

Two more reports were published week requesting urgency from our government—an uphill battle considering our president talks more about leaf raking than policy proposals. While stronger regulations are needed, and quickly, we’re inching ahead in the private sector. Swytch, for example, has announced its new on-chain initiative to track carbon emissions. Incentivizing cities and corporations might be the only way to get them to change their consumption and usage habits. At this moment, we have to exploit all options.

Fight For Truth

Of course, climate change is also too often marketed as fake news, which is both ludicrous and dangerous. Journalist Bob Sullivan, a co-founder of, stated that fake news has gotten so bad we should consider it a public health crisis. Given the real physical harm many people are now in due to the spreading of false misinformation, we need to heed his call.
Two of our portfolio companies, Inkrypt and Proof, are working hard to combat fake news. I talked with Inkrypt co-founder, Ali Chaudhary, about this very topic on RCast this week. Having grown up in Pakistan, he knows firsthand what growing up in a nation that censors information is like; in fact, each of the company’s founders grew up in countries that suppressed news. With a recent suggestion that America would do well with a state-run television network, we have to stay vigilant in our attentional faculties. There’s no guarantee this country won’t slip into censorship in the near future. Democracy is an idea we have to fight for every step of the way.