As reported earlier, Coinbase had acquired Neutrino, the blockchain analytics outfit’s executive suite of which consists of CEO Giancarlo Russo, CTO Alberto Ornaghi, and CRO Marco Valleri all of who were previously associated with Hacking Team. Hacking Team was a startup which sold spyware to several governments known for human rights abuses.
This collaboration has resulted in a massive backlash and currently the battle cry #DeleteCoinbase is resounding across crypto Twitter as bitcoin users are closing their accounts as a form of protest against the controversial acquisition by the exchange.
Washington Post, for example, has reported that Hacking Team had worked directly with the Saudi Arabian government, as well as the enforcement group that allegedly murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The startup’s website proclaimed that the platform as a “hacking suite for governmental interception,” describing its wares as “offensive technology.” According to reports from Motherboard, this spyware has also aided surveillance and arrests of journalists in Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates, Motherboard reported.
Even though it is not clear how to how serious the backlash is, the #deletecoinbase hashtag produces more than 500 results on a Google search, but not all of those are unique, nor are all of them necessarily from before the acquisition was announced. Further, even 500 would amount to a sliver of Coinbase’s 13 million accounts.
This event has also turned out to be a deal-breaker for many crypto celebrities. Meltem Demirors, the founder of Shiny Pony Ventures and chief strategy officer at the asset manager CoinShares, stated that she will not be using Coinbase after this incident.
“There are so many other services out there that do [blockchain analysis] that don’t have these reputational issues, and frankly the ethical issues that some of these Neutrino founders have… This example, to me, clashes with all the messages [Coinbase] are trying to put out there about creating an open financial system, a more inclusive financial system. This acquisition of Neutrino supports the idea of using bitcoin for surveillance capitalism.”
She also elaborated,
“People vote with their feet. Look at what happened to Facebook. A lot of users left Facebook because they didn’t like what was happening. The best jury is what people are looking to use.”
Coinbase could not be reached for a comment on the entire situation at the time of publication, and it remains to be seen whether this controversy will result in a significant loss in Coinbase’s user base.