Sep 10, 2021 9 min read

El Salvador's Bitcoin Day & Apple delays CSAM

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Table of Contents

Newsletter #32: All eyes on El Salvador's BitcoinDay. Plus Apple delays its child protection measures, and more insights and information



Here's what you'll find in this week's issue of Wiser!

  • El Salvador's #BitcoinDay
  • Apple delays their new child protection features
  • AI of Ethics, a book by Alberto Chierici
  • Apple Car
  • Facebook's Ray-Ban smartglasses
  • SEC v Coinbase
  • Google's AI image processing tech
  • Plus headlines and a few other bits and pieces

Premium Content

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El Salvador's #BitcoinDay

On Tuesday this week, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.

Three months ago, President Bukele announced his plans at a crypto conference in Miami. A week later, El Salvador passed the law to make it happen.

This week, that law came into force.

This is historic and Bitcoin aficionados around the world see this as a sign of great things to come. After all, the nation that is leading the way translates in English to "the saviour".

What struck me is the extent to which President Bukele and the Gov have gone to promote and educate this move. The public service ads promoting the use of the Chivo wallet explain in layman's terms, that even my mum would get, how to use Bitcoin.

However, the markets exposed the volatility that is still Bitcoin's fundamental weakness as a currency.

Over a 12 hour period on Wednesday, the price of Bitcoin fell from $52k to $44k, before a muted bounceback to around $47k as I write.

Pricing a Starbuck's flat white today, when the currency is worth c15-20% less then it was yesterday, is going to be a challenge. We'll have to see how that pans out.

Meanwhile, President Bukele's response to the drop in BTC was to tweet "we bought the dip". El Salvador took advantage and increased its holding to over 400 Bitcoin.

For now, all eyes are on El Salvador for the world's first experiment of crypto in the real world.

To read the full story of El Salvador's #BitcoinDay, go here for the long-form article that includes charts, videos and much more insight and information about why they are doing it and its implications for El Salvador. (This is Premium Content for paid subscribers only).


BigTech

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Apple delays its new child protection measures

(Warning: this article contains information that you may find upsetting.)

Last month I covered Apple's new child protection measures, known as CSAM (Child Sex Abuse Material). You can read that article here.

After a month of sustained criticism and, in some cases, indignant outrage, Apple has announced a delay to the new measures. In a statement issued on September 3rd, Apple said;

"Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers, and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features."

The new measures had 3 key features, but it was the scanning for images that triggered the privacy debate.

To recap, Apple's iOS update for North American users would have scanned a user's photos as they were uploaded to iCloud.

The scanning process turns each image into a digital fingerprint, called a cryptographic "hash". This digital fingerprint is then checked against the National Centre of Missing and Exploited Children database of child sex abuse cases.

If the fingerprint of the image matched with an image held on the central database, and there were at least 30 separate matched images for that user, then they would be reported to the authorities.

To be clear, it is illegal to have these images. The user would need to have a few fair of them and they would all have to be on the CSAM database. A mother taking pics of her baby in the bath is not going to trigger a report to the police.

And to be clear, the CSAM database holds images of children, often of a very young age, being raped and abused. The charity Thorn report;

  • the majority of these children are younger than 12,
  • a large percentage are classified as "pre-verbal", i.e., they are not old enough to talk,
  • the abuse and rape of children is captured on both images and videos and shared widely, often going viral amongst secret communities.

Over the past decade, there has been a growth in the coercion of children online to self-produce images, often naked or involving acts of an abusive nature

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It is not just the abhorrent nature of this abuse, but the scale of it that is also a cause for concern.

In the United States alone, over 21 million child abuse cases were reported in 2020, which is a 28% increase in reports of CSAM compared to the year before. Each case can have multiple images and/or video and over 70 million images were reported in 2020.  

The bulk of these cases are being detected on Facebook Messenger. That's not to say that Messenger is the culprit, because any platform with an upload button is being used to share this material.

The reason the detection rate is so high on Messenger is that Facebook, to their credit, has gone the extra mile in implementing detection systems and acting on them.

Personally, I applaud Apple for being bold in moving first, alone and ahead of everyone else to tackle what is a frighteningly large and growing problem.

I have followed the debate, mostly on Twitter, over the last month. The anger and outrage aimed at Apple for "privacy violations" has not been matched by the same level of anger and outrage for the victims of these crimes, i.e, the children.  

Frankly, I don't get it. But then again, there are a lot of things in today's world that I don't!

And here's something I never expected to do, which is to praise the UK Home Secretary. Priti Patel has spoken out in support of Apple and has announced that UK Gov has set up a Saftey Tech Challenge Fund. This will award £85k to five companies that can develop tech to keep children safe online.

To learn more about this issue and the work of Thorn, a charity started by Ashton Kutcher to tackle online child abuse, listen to this episode of Sway from Kara Swisher.

Rise in Online Enticement and Other Trends: NCMEC Releases 2020 Exploitation Stats. Source: Missing Kids

Sarah Gardner, VP Thorn, talks about urgent need to balance online privacy with digital safety for children. Source: TEDx Talk

Snowden Slams Apple CSAM: Warns iPad, iPhone, Mac Users Worldwide. Source: Forbes


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Snippets of Insight and Information

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Apple rumoured to be in talks with Toyota about starting Apple Car production

Apple is rumoured to be working with Toyota to mass-produce an Apple-branded Car by 2024. The Apple Car is expected to be a self-driving, electric vehicle with the batteries and technology made by Apple, and the Car made by a motor manufacturer. In all likelihood, it will be later than 2024 before the Apple Car hits the roads, but you can be certain that when Tim Cook stands up and confirms the Apple Car is coming, this will be big news. Source: MacRumours


Is this Facebook teaser a sneak peek into their new smart glasses?

When Facebook's head of mixed reality (AR and VR) tweeted a film of him messing around on holiday with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he simply added an emoji wearing sunglasses. This is being seen as a teaser for the new Facebook smartglasses made with Ray-Ban. In the source link is the video and tweet, shot in super clear 4k, apparently filmed from his glasses. If this is a taste of what's to come, it's super exciting. Source: UploadVR

UPDATE 10th September 2021: Literally, the day after I put this newsletter to bed, this....


The SEC v Coinbase battle is brewing

This is the opening tweet from Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong. A sure-fire way to prod the regulatory bear and take the spat up a few notches! This is the start of a battle royal between the market regulator, the SEC, and the publicly-listed crypto exchange, Coinbase. It stems from Coinbase wanting to offer its account holders the ability to earn interest off their crypto portfolios (effectively creating a crypto savings account). But the regulators are saying "no can do". My money is on Coinbase to win this one! Sources: Decrypt, The Verge


Five European startups that will surprise you!

Flying cars, super-accurate satellite imaging, cryopreservation, emotion AI and touchless technology. Read about the 5 European early-stage tech firms developing innovative new solutions for tomorrow's problems. Source: EU Startups


Google’s New AI Photo Upscaling Tech is Jaw-Dropping

Google has released details of its AI photo upscaling tech. Using machine learning, the upscaling tech can take a very old, poor quality photo (one that is old, grainy and out of focus, for example) and turn it into a high resolution, higher quality image. Details of this tech are in a post titled “High Fidelity Image Generation Using Diffusion Models” from Google's Brain Team. Source: PetaPixel


Plug for a Friend of Wiser!

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Ethics of AI

I've known Alberto Chierici for about 7 years. We first met when he was a startup founder and I was a mentor at Startupbootcamp in London. Alberto has helped me understand many things, from chatbots to AI to data science and the role of the actuary (these are some of the things that Alberto does).

Currently, Alberto works for Tesla as a Revolutionary Actuary, shaping the future of Tesla's insurance offering. Now he's written a book and I urge you to read it.

Wiser! readers can get the ebook version here for a $1.

I will be recording an interview with Alberto shortly. If you have any questions for him, reply to this email and let me have them.

And let me know what you think of the book...I really enjoyed it.


Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

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Just the Headlines

The internet's "phonebook" is flawed and outdated. It's time to upgrade.

Amazon is reportedly planning to release an Amazon-branded TV as soon as October

The trial of Theranos's Elizabeth Holmes opens

YouTube surpasses 50 million subscribers

TikTok overtakes YouTube for average watch time in US and UK

More than 70% of Americans live within 100 miles of an Amazon Air airport

Gaming will change humanity as we know it


That's all for this week's free issue of the Wiser! Newsletter.

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