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Preserve privacy by rejecting a ban on Bitcoin and crypto self-custody in Lithuania

Lithuania’s Finance Ministry has announced plans that would essentially outlaw non-custodial crypto wallets – the practice of self-custodying of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies on a wallet an individual controls – and impose stricter regulations on crypto exchanges in an attempt to combat money-laundering, terrorist financing, and sanctions evasion. 

The prepared draft law heads to the Seimas and, if passed, would impose stricter regulations on individuals as well as cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

This bill mirrors a proposed European Commission regulation that has passed various EU Parliament committees but has yet to adopt continent-wide, aiming to restrict cryptocurrency services and institutions.

“Banning non-custodial wallets, together with introducing strict and complicated measures for cryptocurrency exchanges will introduce unfavorable conditions for the growing industry and will cause a number of businesses to be forced and move their operations abroad – not to mention the harm this does to consumers who want to safely and securely enjoy crypto services,” said Aleksandar Kokotovic, crypto fellow at the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group. 

“A measure that aims to prevent money laundering will have very little effect in doing so but will definitely hurt the privacy of Lithuanian citizens and force them to use services based outside of the country, leaving them less secure than they are at the moment,” said Kokotovic.

“Non-custodial Bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallets are basically just code, many of which are open source and can be replicated and forked indefinitely. A government trying to ban code is not only ridiculous but will do absolutely nothing to supposedly stop bad actors. All it will do, in the end, is create a precedent for the government to crack down on its own citizens for using cryptocurrencies,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

“Banning software in 2022 is not only a bad idea that will be impossible to enforce, but will have a wide array of possible negative consequences, including the privacy of financial and crypto customers. 

“We have seen consumers voting with their feet in the past and sometimes being forced to choose service providers in different countries to avoid similar measures. We are still hoping that Seimas will understand the worries around approving such legislation and that they will preserve privacy and safeguard innovation rather than create unfavorable conditions for consumers and businesses,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

The Consumer Choice Center strongly urges Seimas members to vote against this legislation and to preserve the privacy of Lithuanian citizens as well as continue creating a prosperous and friendly business environment for consumers and industry alike.

“We offer the following bedrock principles on smart crypto regulation for lawmakers, hoping to promote sound policies that will encourage innovation, increase economic inclusion across all income groups, all the while protecting consumers from harm,” said Ossowski.

PRINCIPLES

  • Prevent Fraud
  • Technological Neutrality
  • Reasonable Taxation
  • Legal Certainty & Transparency

“The temptation to regulate cryptocurrencies and the blockchain economy based on financial considerations alone, rather than the innovative potential, is an active threat for entrepreneurs and consumers in the crypto space,” said Aleksandar Kokotović, CCC’s crypto fellow and co-author of the primer.

“Penalizing first-movers in crypto innovation or subjecting them to outdated laws will only serve to limit the unparalleled economic growth currently provided by the sector, or risk pushing all investment and entrepreneurship to less reliable and lawful jurisdictions,” added Kokotović.

The policy primer can be read in full here

EU Parliament Risks ‘Forever Stalling’ Digital Innovation If It Accepts Environmental Scrutiny on Proof-of-Work Mining, Bitcoin, and the Crypto Economy

BRUSSELS, BE – The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs will vote today on a comprehensive regulatory proposal called MiCA (Market in Crypto-Assets). This proposal has been in the works for months, however, last-minute several amendments have been added to the proposal, which if accepted could effectively ban Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining in the European Union, pushing thousands of innovators out of Europe.

“By effectively prohibiting the issuance or offering for exchange of crypto-assets that rely on proof-of-work protocols under environmental, social, and governance guidelines, the European Union would make a disastrous move that would obliterate not just the nascent crypto industry but also hurt consumers and once again cede technological leadership in innovation to the United States,” said Aleksandar Kokotović, crypto fellow at Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

“If these amendments are adopted, EU regulators will strike a devastating blow to the crypto industry in member states. Not only will Bitcoin mining face immediate scrutiny, but the entire Defi space based on Ethereum, the rising NFT industry, and hundreds of companies will be forced to close, move or ban EU citizens from using their services. By not letting individuals and companies choose technologies they prefer, EU regulators are going against the principles of technological neutrality and are setting a very dangerous and harmful precedent.

“If the EU wants to completely stifle innovation and financial sovereignty of its citizens, this is the way to go. If it wants to lose millions of jobs, talent, and value that come with innovation, then this is a good plan for that. Otherwise, these amendments must not pass,” said Kokotović.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, said such a vote risks “forever stalling” digital innovation in the bloc on flawed environmental goals, especially in light of the war in Ukraine.

“The Russian war in Ukraine has demonstrated that Europe has been too comfortable in using lofty environmental goals and ideology to mollify its energy policy and risk its security. By using similar environmental metrics based on ESG to halt innovation for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining, the European Union risks forever stalling digital innovation and pushing billions in assets and entrepreneurship off the continent,” said Ossowski.

“Pushing the cryptocurrency industry outside of the EU will encourage citizens to circumvent the law and use more loosely regulated platforms and services, all the while depriving Europeans of their consumer choice.

“Bitcoin and other proof-of-work cryptocurrencies represent a revolution in digital money, especially because proof-of-work is a uniquely strong and fair way to settle the creation of digital property when compared to our fiat money system. The incentives to seek cleaner and greener energy exist because of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, not in spite of them,” added Ossowski.

“We hope EU parliamentarians recognize the significant folly they’re due to introduce if they deny the voices of consumers and vote for amendments ALT A and ALT G to the Markets in Crypto Assets Proposal that would effectively kneecap proof-of-work currencies in the EU,” said Ossowski.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Washington, Ottawa, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Is this North Carolina Congressman hawking Bitcoin?

Sometime last week, Neeraj K. Agrawal, the communications director for the DC-based cryptocurrency think tank Coin Center, tweeted a link to an empty website: whitehouse.gov/bitcoin.pdf.

The idea he was trying to convey, in Internet speak, is that hopefully, one day we can look forward to the day when the Bitcoin whitepaper would be hosted on the White House’s website.

That would signal that the executive branch has endorsed elements of the cryptocurrency, and hosted the fundamental founding document to build confidence in the government using Bitcoin as a unit of currency.

That’s futuristic, crypto-fueled optimism that was nothing but a cheeky tweet in that moment.

Taking that to the next level, tech investor and entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan put forward a challenge: which forward-thinking country or US state would host the Bitcoin white paper on their main domain?

Enter North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC)

Hailing from Gastonia, a town I once worked in as a newspaper reporter, McHenry represents the 10th district in the northwestern part of the state, home to NASCAR drivers, the mighty Catawba River, and stretching to the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains.

He once represented part of Gaston County in the State House and was later elected to Congress as one of the youngest congressmen in 2004.

As the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee, McHenry has often been involved in regulatory debates and discussions on cryptocurrencies and financial projects, including Facebook’s Libra project.

At least in previous statements and letters, McHenry usually joined hands with his Democratic colleagues to oppose any competition to the US dollar, as we’ve noted in past press releases.

However, it seems McHenry is changing his tune on the future of innovation in the cryptocurrency space.

On Wednesday, he took on the challenge originally posted by Agrawal and followed by Srinivasan: he posted the Bitcoin whitepaper to his own website.

Not only that, but he stated that “policymakers should be on the side of innovation and ingenuity, which are vital to American competitiveness,” and urged his colleagues to join him.

Is this North Carolina Republican Congressman hawking Bitcoin? It seems the answer is yes.

Looking into it more, he’s grown more bullish on Bitcoin and tech-related financial services in the last two years and even clarified his position on why projects like Libra do not represent a true cryptocurrency.

Appearing on series of podcasts, including one with fellow Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, McHenry has been more vocal on why Bitcoin’s technology is like nothing before, and in fact, represents the future of financial and digital services.

And top it off — he posted the Bitcoin whitepaper on the congressional web server!

If McHenry’s statements are true, and if he is using his position as a Financial Services committee member to advance those ideas, I think we may have a consumer champion congressman to follow in the next two years.

As a fellow North Carolinian and advocate for consumer-friendly policies, I have been critical toward McHenry’s various positions in the past, specifically on legitimizing financial services for cannabis-related companies.

I believe the exact tagline I used was “The North Carolina Republican singlehandedly blocking progress on cannabis banking“.

Obviously, McHenry’s ideas and policies are more nuanced and deserve a closer look. I look forward to him expounding on that much more. So while we may not agree on cannabis banking, there still could be much to agree on with the congressman.

If more politicians in DC and various statehouses approached this issue like McHenry, perhaps our governments would be better vehicles for fostering innovation and helping grow consumer choice.

Kudos to you, Rep. McHenry.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center

Cryptocurrency Regulations Should Not Stifle the Innovative Potential of Blockchain Technology

By Nur Baysal | 12. February 2018 Recently, the prices of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum made new headlines: After reaching a staggering all-time-high of $19,783 in December, the price of Bitcoin lost more than half of its value in January and February, dragging the price of other cryptos down alongside it. During this time, a plethora […]

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