The Bitcoin Foundation hangs out in Washington

This week members of the Bitcoin Foundation had a series of meetings with regulators and law makers in DC.

On Monday 5 Foundation members, Marco Santori, Patrick Murck, Peter Vessenes, Brian Klein and Jim Harper, met with representatives from a number of US agencies including FinCEN, IRS, FDIC, Federal Reserve, OCC, FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and the Department of Homeland Security.

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Bitcoin is "Rechnungseinheiten" … what does that mean?

Frank Schaeffler, a member of German parliament’s Finance Committee has issued a statement recognizing Bitcoin as “Rechnungseinheiten,” which translates to “units of account”.  Many news sources are reporting that this makes Bitcoin ‘private money’  or ‘legal tender’   in Germany.

But what exactly does the designation of “Rechnungseinheiten” mean for German Bitcoin users and businesses?

Via Pymnts.com

The German parliament stopped short of granting bitcoin full currency status on August 19, but recognized bitcoins as “units of account” when it formally issued regulations for the popular virtual currency.

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World Gold Council releases Q2 Demand Trends Report

Second Quarter 2013 in summary

Gold jewellery demand rises 37% in Q2 2013, led by Indian and Chinese consumers
Lower gold prices generated a surge in global jewellery demand to 575.5t, the highest volume for five years. In value terms demand was 20% higher than Q2 2012.
Sizeable ETF outflows countered by record bar and coin demand of 508t in Q2 2013
The fall in gold prices led to record demand for gold bars and coins of 507.6t, up 56% in value terms to US$23bn. However, this was mitigated by well-documented outflows from ETFs.
Technology gold demand saw a marginal increase, up 1% in Q2 2013
Demand for gold in the technology sector in Q2 2013 increased by 1% to 104.3t. Price declines and improvements in economic conditions provided a boost to demand from the electronics segment.
Central bank gold purchases slowed in Q2 2013, remain within 70-160 tonne range
Central banks added 71.1t of gold to official reserves in Q2 2013, marking the tenth consecutive quarter of net purchases but 57% down on the previous year.
Total supply shrank 62 tonnes in Q2 2013, driven by 21% decrease in recycling
While Q2 2013 mine production saw a 4% increase year-on-year, the significant reduction in recycling by consumers during the quarter led to the 6% decrease in total supply.

 

The full report can be read here.

 

The US Senate jumps on the Bitcoin inquiry bandwagon

First NY, then the House and now the Senate, US regulators are turning their attention to virtual currencies.

On Monday the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs sent a letter to Homeland Security for information on any policies, procedures or guidance they have that pertains to “virtual currencies”.

The letter states the committee has initiated an inquiry into virtual currencies, list recent legal actions involving Bitcoin and contains the usual ‘hey were all for new tech, but we need to look at the threats and risks’.

The letter, which can be read here, ask Homeland Security for 3 things to be provided by the end of the month…

  1. Any policies, procedures, guidance, or advisories related to the treatment or regulation of virtual currencies and any minutes of interagency working groups involved in the development of any such policies, procedures, guidance or advisories;
  2. Information related to any ongoing coordination of your agency with any other federal agencies or state and local governments related to the treatment of virtual currencies; and,
  3. Any plans or strategies regarding virtual currencies and information regarding any ongoing initiatives you have engaged in regarding virtual currencies and the name of the person most knowledgeable about any such plans, strategies or initiatives.

Congress directs the FBI to report on Bitcoin

FBILogoThe United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies 2014 appropriations bill recommends spending amounts for a number of government agencies including the FBI.

In their 2014 appropriations bill, the subcommittee directs the FBI to report on Bitcoin, specifically what the FBI is doing to address the “challenge” that they see from the “ersatz currency“.

Page 45 of the bill

Money laundering. —The Committee understands that Bitcoins and other forms of peer-to-peer digital currency are a potential means for criminal, terrorist or other illegal organizations and individuals to illegally launder and transfer money. News reports indicate that Bitcoins may have been used to help finance the flight and activity of fugitives. The Committee directs the FBI, in consultation with the Department and other Federal partners, to provide a briefing no later 120 days after the enactment of this Act on the nature and scale of the risk posed by such ersatz currency, both in financing illegal enterprises and in undermining financial institutions. The briefing should describe the FBI efforts in the context of a coordinated Federal response to this challenge, and identify staffing and other resources devoted to this effort.
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New York’s Department of Financial Services initiates Inquiry on Virtual Currencies

NY-DFSThe New York banking regulator has issued subpoenas to 22 companies associated with Bitcoin as part of an “Inquiry on Virtual Currencies”.

Via Forbes’ Kashmir Hill

A subpoena doesn’t mean criminal activity has taken place. A person familiar with the matter says the two-year-old department wants to make sure Bitcoin isn’t a conduit for illicit activities and is gathering information in order to decide whether to issue regulation for virtual currencies. The department has the authority to create regulation if there is no other primary regulator.

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Bits and Pieces Aug13th2013

Critical Vulnerability Found in Bitcoin Android Wallets. The Android software itself has a vulnerability in the way it generates random numbers. Long story short, if you have Bitcoin wallet on an Android phone you’ll want to upgrade your app and/or temporarily move your bitcoins off your phone. Details here.

It looks like Bloomberg is testing a Bitcoin ticker. Abbreviating Bitcoin as XBT, Bloomberg terminal users can now look up Bitcoin’s pricing history. Data comes from Bitcoin exchange service Mt. Gox as well as Tradehill. More details here.

The Bitcoin ATM is now available for pre-order. The makers of the Bitcoin machine, Lamassu, are now accepting orders for the machine. Lamassu will sell the machine with the appropriate software installed and leave regulatory compliance to those operating the ‘ATM’.  Customers in the US are required to sign a due diligence questionnaire.  Prices start at $5000 via Bitcoin or wire transfers. Order yours here.

Why Libbitcoin matters. Libbitcoin is an advanced alternative implementations of the Bitcoin protocol. While there are other alternative implementations, this one is unique it allows Bitcoin users with some technical skills but not necessarily experienced programmers to “work directly with the underlying [Bitcoin] building blocks.”

This may be a competitor to the current implementation, bitcoind and have the effect of limiting the influence of Bitcoin updates coming from authorities such as the Bitcoin Foundation. This may help to maintain Bitcoin’s decentralized nature and has some political implictions as explained here.

Bitcoin is officially Money. The SEC is suing Trendon Shavers for running a Ponzi scheme, the Bitcoin Savings & Trust. Part of Mr Trendon’s defence was to claim that Bitcoin investments are not securities and Bitcoin is not money; last week a judge disagreed.

 

Can an overseer overlook some basics? – The ECB on e-money and virtual currencies

ECB-smallIn October 2012 the European Central Bank published a remarkable study on “Virtual Currency Schemes”[1]. At that time, the Bitcoin exchange rate was still stable (about 12 USD per Bitcoin). But only a little later, in the beginning of 2013, the Bitcoin rally started reaching its peak rate of 237 USD in April. This rally led to an intensive worldwide discussion about the nature, challenges and threats of virtual currencies. The ECB report includes two case studies of the virtual currencies Bitcoin and Linden Dollar (of the Second Life virtual community). Based on its findings, it proceeds to discuss the relevance of such private unregulated (at least at the time being) currency schemes for central banks, published as an official view of the ECB.[2]

The ECB is not worried at the moment because the volume of virtual currencies is still low. Therefore it does not see them as a threat to financial stability. But the ECB notes that such virtual currencies could have a negative impact on the reputation of central banks.

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'Digital Asset' businesses embrace regulatory compliance with new industry group

dataAnnounced this week at the Inside Bitcoins conference  the new DATA industry group aims to represent businesses not just in the Bitcoin space but any digital asset including, “emerging payments, virtual currency, and other financial technology innovations”.

DATA, or the Digital Asset Transfer Authority’s founding members include the CEO’s of leading Bitcoin businesses such as BitInstant, BitPay, & BitStamp as well as the CEO’s of other digital currency businesses including Ripple’s OpenCoin and Ven.

However, the groups stated goals seem sure to heat up the regulation debate.

From DATA’s official announcement

To reach this potential, to inspire confidence in the services we offer, and to ensure fair and responsible treatment of consumers and merchants, we believe our industry must evolve in compliance with law and regulation. We must work proactively with regulators and policymakers to adapt their requirements to our technologies and business models. We must develop and implement common risk management and compliance standards that address the public policy concerns associated with our businesses. And our firms must build risk management and compliance programs that meet those standards.

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