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Cornell Professor Sirer Blasts Back: Asks ChangeTip to Prove Their Commitment to Privacy

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:42 PM
Clay Michael Gillespie
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:42 PM

ChangeTipA Cornell professor is done hearing about how bad ChangeTip feels when he called them out for their, what he believes to be, potentially dangerous business model. A few weeks ago, Emin Gün Sirer  said that ChangeTip needed to die a quick death due to the fact that the company has the ability to link user data on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit directly to corresponding bitcoin addresses.

Because ChangeTip’s parent company recently raised $3.5 million in seed funding, Sirer believes the company will eventually cripple under the financial pressure and sell user data to interested parties. As their current known business model can only bring ChangeTip $600 in a maximum revenue, Sirer argued that they hold on to incredibly dangerous and valuable information.

Also read: Cornell Professor Says ChangeTip Must Die

ChangeTip CEO’s Reaction to the Criticism

Upon reading the scathing post, ChangeTip CEO Nick Sullivan came out and said he felt “like a charity being yelled at.” Speaking to CoinDesk , Sullivan said that ChangeTip has a privacy policy in “big bold letters” that says they will not sell user data without user permission. He promised that the company has no intention of doing so and that there were “no witches to be found here.”

He outlined his credentials as well, pointing out that he was the vice president of technology at Krux Digital, where he helped create a do-not-track policy. “I’ve spent a good chunk of the last five years opposing this,” he said.

After hearing Sullivan’s rebuttal, Sirer came back with a list of Tips for ChangeTip , pointing out that ChangeTip is no charity, and in fact is a for-profit corporation “engaged in profit seeking behaviors at the expense of a wider community.”

“ChangeTip should outline a response that goes beyond ‘but we’re good people and can do no wrong. […] Mark Karpeles, Danny Brewster and Alex (Ryan Kennedy) Green were all good people once. Everyone who violates social norms has some story that starts out with them being good people. The ChangeTip ToS [terms of service] needs to be so good that it stands on its own, without reference to the personal history of the company officers.”

Sirer Claims ChangeTip Shouldn’t Be Trusted With a Currency Based on Trustlessness

Among other policy suggestions he had for ChangeTip, including minor unrelated changes like tip dusting, social spamming and guerilla marketing, Sirer said ChangeTip should protect their guarantees by explicitly committing to them.

“The current ToS says that the terms can be changed at will in the future, with some lip service to user notification,” he said. “But notification is not equal to informed consent on the Internet, and the latter is often not real consent at all. This is true especially for ChangeTip, because their users rarely interact through their website.”

Sirer also said ChangeTip should guarantee that users who sever their relationship with ChangeTip will be completely forgotten. He proposed a call to action, saying if ChangeTip values privacy, this should be easy.

Whether or not Sirer is right, he does seem to be calling for ChangeTip to make some simple changes that follow the mentality they’re showing. Sirer wants ChangeTip to contractually and legally show that they believe in what they’re saying.

“They need to tackle the hard questions and, if they want good will from society at large, demonstrate that they are not just trying to make a buck at the expense of others,” he said. “I have full faith in their team, and hope to see them prosper by improving the quality of discussion in online communities.”

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