Ever since Coinbase announced its eleventh and latest acquisition, the blockchain analytics firm Neutrino, the company has suddenly found itself caught amid major backlash from its users. A number of Coinbase users started deleting their accounts and tried to trend the #DeleteCoinbase hashtag. This is because some members of the Neutrino team are associated with ‘The Hacking Team’, a startup which used to sell surveillance software to governments known for human rights violations.
Coinbase responded to this outrage today by announcing that the controversial members of Neutrino will be ‘transitioned out’ of the company. This announcement was made by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong via an update on the Coinbase blog. Here’s what Armstrong said:
[T]ogether with the Neutrino team have come to an agreement: those who previously worked at Hacking Team (despite the fact that they have no current affiliation with Hacking Team), will transition out of Coinbase. This was not an easy decision, but their prior work does present a conflict with our mission. We are thankful to the Neutrino team for engaging with us on this outcome.
For those who may not be aware of this controversy - basically, some higher-ups in the Neutrino team were the men behind ‘The Hacking Team’ which sold surveillance software to the government. This helped authoritarian regimes curb down on free speech and identify journalists (as well as members of the public) who were openly speaking against them. Debates surrounding free speech and surveillance have heated up in the international community following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Armstrong said that while the company was looking towards how the acquisition of Neutrino is going to benefit their analytics division, they made an oversight in the diligence process. The Coinbase CEO also pointed out that these members were no longer associated with The Hacking Team. However, given that they had such a past, they were let go by the company.
Armstrong added that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are all about the rights of an individual as well as the protection of their civil liberties. He admitted that the company ‘did not make the right tradeoff in this specific case.’ However, with this corrective course of action, it looks like Coinbase will make things right again for the users who were upset with them.
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