Coinbase recently acquired a blockchain intelligence platform in Italy named Neutrino, and it has come with a lot of feedback from the public. Founded in 2016, the company has been led by Giancarlo Russo, Marco Valleri, and Alberto Ornaghi.
However, some of the controversies seem to center around the fact that Valleri and Ornaghi had founded Hacking Team before their work with Neutrino. Hacking Team was an intelligence firm that sold spyware around the world, according to a report from The Block.
When the acquisition was announced, the search for information about Neutrino began, and it did not take long for users to learn about the history in spyware. Some people, including Matteo Leibowitz from The Block, questioned if the history of
“consistently facilitating human rights abuses taint Coinbase’s claims of democratization and democratizing cryptocurrency.”
After a decent amount of criticism on Twitter took place, Coinbase has responded.
Speaking directly with The Block, Coinbase said that they were “aware” of the former activities of the leadership team that is now Neutrino, saying that the history was
“reviewed as part of our security, technical, and hiring diligence.”
While they do not “condone” or “defend” the actions, Coinbase insists that
“it was important for Coinbase to bring this function in-house to fully control and protect our customers’ data and Neutrino’s technology was the best we encountered in the space to achieve this goal.”
Supporting their decision, Coinbase added,
“[S]ignificant effort is required to understand the flow of cryptocurrencies and manage risks across public blockchains”
“we are proud of our long track record balancing a compliant, regulated cryptocurrency exchange with the commitment to protecting our customers’ right to privacy.”
Furthermore, they said,
“for Coinbase to meaningfully grow the crypto economy, we know we can never take the trust our customers place in us for granted.”
Neutrino offers solutions that are specifically geared toward law enforcement agencies that need to analyze the inflow and outflow of various public blockchains. The writer from The Block adds,
“And while blockchain intelligence itself is antithetical to the “censorship-resistant” ethos of the crypto community, Neutrino, or to be exact, its founders’ historical backgrounds, is the main the source of contention of this story.”
The work that Hacking Team performed for government agencies has earned them an unwelcoming label from Reporters Without Borders – “Enemy of the Internet.”
The organization feels that the malware that Hacking Team created for use with the various governments made it possible
“to capture the passwords of journalists and netizens”
“to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information.”
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