Source: BBC News - Technology | 6 Jul 2022 | 3:26 pm
Source: BBC News - Technology | 6 Jul 2022 | 11:47 am
Source: BBC News - Technology | 5 Jul 2022 | 1:24 pm
Source: BBC News - Technology | 5 Jul 2022 | 11:06 am
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies.
The company behind the internet’s dominant internet search engine and the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones outlined the new privacy protections in a Friday blog post.
Besides automatically deleting visits to abortion clinics, Google also cited counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics as other destinations that will be erased from users’ location histories. Users have always had the option edit their location histories on their own, but Google will proactively do it for them as an added level of protection.
“We’re committed to delivering robust privacy protections for people who use our products, and we will continue to look for new ways to strengthen and improve these protections,” Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, wrote in the blog post.
The pledge comes amid escalating pressure on Google and other Big Tech companies to do more to shield the troves of sensitive personal information through their digital services and products from government authorities and other outsiders.
The calls for more stringent privacy controls were triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. That reversal could make abortion illegal in more than a dozen states, raising the specter that records about people’s location, texts, searches and emails could be used in prosecutions against abortion procedures or even for medical care sought in a miscarriage.
Like other technology companies, Google each year receives thousands of government demands for users’ digital records as part of misconduct investigations. Google says it pushes back against search warrants and other demands that are overly broad or appear to be baseless.
Source: Tech – TIME | 3 Jul 2022 | 7:15 am
A lawyer representing Facebook’s parent company Meta called on a judge to “crack the whip” against a Black South African whistleblower on Monday, requesting a gagging order to prevent him from speaking to the media.
The whistleblower, Daniel Motaung, was paid $2.20 per hour to be a Facebook content moderator in Kenya. He was fired by Facebook’s outsourcing partner, Sama, in 2019 after he led more than 100 of his colleagues in a unionization effort for better pay and working conditions. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his work, and is now suing both Meta and Sama in a Nairobi court, alleging that he and his former colleagues are victims of forced labor, human trafficking and union-busting.
Motaung’s experiences at Sama were first reported by TIME in February 2022. He has since spoken about his ordeal publicly, including at a panel discussion on June 14 in London alongside another Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen. At a hearing in a Kenyan labor court on June 27, Sama’s lawyer Terry Mwango said that Motaung speaking to the media and in public about his experiences risked prejudicing court proceedings. Mwango requested a formal order to prevent Motaung and his lawyers from speaking about the case in public.
Read More: Inside Facebook’s African Sweatshop
Meta’s lawyer, Fred Ojiambo, seconded Mwango’s request. “Unless the petitioner and particularly his advocates are injuncted by this court from continuing to deal with this matter in this way, there will be complete and total contempt, not only of the proceedings, but of the court and the judicial officer dealing with it,” Ojiambo said.
Addressing the judge, he added: “It’s my honorable submission, lord, that your lordship crack the whip, this time around.”
In court Motaung’s lawyer Mercy Mutemi rejected the allegations that her client had breached Kenya’s sub judice rules, saying he and his representatives had refrained from discussing specifics of the case in public to comply with Kenyan law. She said Meta and Sama had not presented any evidence to show a gagging order was necessary.
The judge refused to immediately impose a gagging order, but invited Meta and Sama to bring contempt of court proceedings if they could find evidence in support.
Racial justice advocates condemned Facebook for the attempt to silence Motaung. “In a court of law, Facebook has confirmed in the most explicit way imaginable that they think Black people are property to be controlled rather than people to be respected,” said Rashad Robinson, president of the U.S.-based civil rights group Color of Change, in a statement to TIME. “Treating Black people as second-class digital citizens and high-exploitation employees is a pattern for Facebook, and their selective silencing of a Black whistleblower proves that only regulation will bring them in line with 21st century labor standards.”
Color of Change says it is calling on Meta to immediately drop its demand for a gagging order against Motaung.
“We need to make sure that Black employees suffering under Facebook’s ‘sweatshop’ labor conditions are free to blow the whistle without Facebook ‘whipping’ them into silence.” Robinson said. “We have fought too long to be silenced by any whip that Facebook selectively enforces against Black people, whether users on its platform, users of its ad services or employees of its subcontractors. We need regulation now.”
Although Facebook requires its employees to sign restrictive non-disclosure agreements, it is rare for the company to explicitly attempt to silence a whistleblower who has gone public. Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who leaked thousands of pages of internal documents last year, and who is white, has said she has not faced similar attempts. “After I came out, I got the benefit of the race and gender issues,” she said during the panel discussion with Motaung last month. “I think it would have been very difficult for Facebook to come after me at this point because it would be a huge PR liability for them. We in our society have norms against, like, picking on women, for example. So I want to completely acknowledge my privilege.”
Meta did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Ojiambo did not respond to a request for comment. Motaung, through his lawyers, declined to comment. Mutemi declined to comment.
In an email, Sama’s chief marketing officer Suzin Wold said: “The judge in this case cautioned all the parties against commenting on the court case in any forum. Respect for [the] judge’s orders and that cases should be addressed by the court are important principles of Kenyan law that we intend to respect. Given that, we are unable to comment any further.”
In 2020, in the wake of widespread racial justice protests in the U.S., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook that he believed that “Black lives matter.” He added: “I know Facebook needs to do more to support equality and safety for the Black community through our platforms.”
Neither Sama nor Facebook responded to questions asking whether they planned to proceed with formal legal requests for a gagging order against Motaung.
In June, Sama’s CEO Wendy Gonzalez appeared at a conference in Toronto where she was asked on stage about Motaung’s allegations. “We are supportive of feedback loops including everything from whistleblower [sic] in anonymous digital media all the way to physical media,” she said. “So ultimately at the end of the day, all concerns should be raised and they should be addressed very seriously.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 2 Jul 2022 | 4:57 am
Before Roe v. Wade granted women the constitutional right to abortion in 1973, most abortion procedures were kept hidden, even from close family members. Some women destroyed evidence and traveled in the wee hours of the morning to cover their tracks. But with today’s advances in technology, even though it’s never been easier or safer to access abortion at home, keeping it private could turn out to be much harder. The websites and apps that people use every day leave a digital footprint that’s nearly impossible to hide.
The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on June 24 has directed a spotlight on the question of digital surveillance, as Google searches, location information, period-tracking apps and other personal digital data could be collected and used as evidence of a crime if one seeks to terminate a pregnancy—or helps someone do so—in states where it’s illegal. The prevalence of abortion pills, which allow people to end their pregnancies in their own homes, raises new privacy issues, as most patients must order the pills over the Internet or access a telemedicine appointment to have the medication prescribed.
While some lawmakers have been fighting for this issue for years, legislation that would enshrine safeguards against the collection of personal data by governments and companies for criminal surveillance and corporate profit has stalled. But the urgency has intensified in recent weeks.
“The answer can’t be just don’t use technology,” Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Democrat from California who introduced a digital privacy bill in June, tells TIME. “These are services that are very helpful to people. The answer is for us in government to do our job and put the protections in place.”
The day of the Supreme Court’s decision, Google search interest for “how to get an abortion” was more than six times higher than the previous day. Internet searches like these could turn up in criminal cases, and it’s hardly out of left field. In 2017, prosecutors used a Mississippi woman’s search history for pregnancy-terminating medication as evidence in a trial over the death of her fetus. And in 2015, prosecutors used text messages about abortion pills, exchanged between friends, to convict a woman of child neglect and feticide.
“The current privacy protections are fairly weak,” says Hayley Tsukayama, a senior legislative activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights. There is no single, comprehensive federal law regulating how user data is collected, stored or shared, leaving the issue of digital privacy largely up to companies to decide, she says. Period-tracking apps, for example, which millions of people use to help track their menstrual cycles, could sell information to third parties.
“You can ask websites and apps to stop collecting your information, and you can even ask them to stop selling it,” Tsukayama says, but without a federal data privacy law in place, “You can’t really force them.”
Here’s a look at recent bills that have been introduced at the federal and state levels aimed at protecting digital privacy.
My Body, My Data Act
The My Body, My Data Act, introduced in the House on June 16 and later in the Senate, would task the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with enforcing a national privacy standard for reproductive health data collected by apps, cell phones and search engines. It would require that companies collect and store only the health information that is strictly needed to provide their services. It would also give users the right to access or delete their personal data.
Rep. Jacobs, who introduced the bill, says digital privacy concerns are especially acute in states like Texas and Oklahoma where citizens can access up to $10,000 rewards for reporting those who violate the states’ abortion laws. “It would make it so that a small right-wing nonprofit group in Texas couldn’t just buy up or get access to this data and create a mass surveillance system,” says Jacobs, “to be able to turn people in who are seeking abortion as is incentivized in the Texas bounty law.”
Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Mazie Hirono, longtime proponents of digital privacy reform, introduced the bill in the upper chamber. The bills have been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Abortion Federation, URGE, National Partnership for Women & Families, Feminist Majority and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Jacobs says there’s a “very good chance” that the Democrat-led House votes on the bill soon. “I think that people really recognize the urgency of this moment,” she says. But the chances it passes the sharply divided Senate are steeper, privacy experts tell TIME.
Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act
Another bill, called the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation (SAD) Act, was introduced on June 23 by a group of Democrats led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, as well as Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
It aims to crack down on misleading advertising by anti-abortion pregnancy centers, known as crisis pregnancy centers, which often style themselves as reproductive health clinics without making it clear they are faith-based organizations whose mission it is to dissuade pregnant women from having abortions.
A recent TIME investigation found that these pregnancy centers also collect vast troves of personal data on the women who come to them for help. These women often do not understand that they are providing detailed health information—including addresses, marital status, demographic information, sexual and reproductive histories, test results, ultrasound photos, and information shared during consultations—to organizations run by the anti-abortion movement. Because most pregnancy centers, which outnumber abortion clinics three to one across the country, are not licensed medical clinics and offer services for free, privacy lawyers tell TIME that they are not legally bound by federal health data privacy laws.
“By promoting deceptive or misleading advertisements about abortion services, crisis pregnancy centers jeopardize women’s health and well-being,” Sen. Menendez said in a statement. The SAD Act directs the FTC to prohibit deceptive practices by these centers, and authorizes the agency to enforce these rules and collect penalties.
Some abortion providers already began taking steps to safeguard patient information prior to the Supreme Court ruling. Many are now using paper records, making phone calls instead of texting or e-mailing, and using encrypted messaging apps.
Health and Location Data Protection Act
Yet another bill, the Health and Location Data Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, on June 15, would ban data brokers from selling or transferring a person’s medical and sensitive personal information, with a few limited exceptions. It would also give the FTC $1 billion over 10 years to enforce these rules. “Data brokers profit from the location data of millions of people, posing serious risks to Americans everywhere by selling their most private information,” Warren said in a statement the day the legislation was introduced.
Recent reporting from Vice found that for $160, one could buy a week’s worth of data on where people who visited more than 600 Planned Parenthood clinics came from and where they went afterward. Although that data was not tied to people’s names, privacy advocates argue that such details are discoverable if an individual’s travel patterns are unique. Acquiring and selling user data, experts say, is a billion dollar industry that continues growing.
“Data collection and processing is really at the heart of a lot of business models now,” EFF’s Tsukayama says. “It’s very difficult to convince people to change that unless there are some penalties or some other mechanisms to push that change.”
In some states, local lawmakers have taken matters into their own hands.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, a Democrat, introduced legislation on May 4 that would bar pregnancy centers in the state from sharing client data without permission. She noted a recent decision by the state’s Office of Open Records that said that pregnancy centers in the state were risking client’s privacy rights by sending their data—including names and the services they received, as well as their pregnancy status, sexual history and STD information—to Real Alternatives, the state-funded network of anti-abortion pregnancy centers.
“My bill would regulate what [data] they collect and the authorizations that they would be required to have, providing information to the woman so they would know exactly what they are signing on to,” she told TIME. “On its own this is a dangerous invasion of privacy but considering recent movement to deputize private citizens into vigilantes to regulate reproductive health, the threat is becoming even more imminent.”
Right now, though, states can only do so much, says Alan Butler, executive director and president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Because the U.S. lacks a comprehensive set of federal digital privacy laws, women in states banning abortion are especially vulnerable.
“The states that are more likely to restrict abortion rights,” he says, “are also the states that don’t have strong privacy laws.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 2 Jul 2022 | 4:44 am
Cryptocurrencies are bad for the environment—at least, that’s what most people online seem to believe. Pro-crypto posts on social media are often flooded with angry comments about the industry’s outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Studies estimate that Bitcoin mining, the process that safeguards the Bitcoin network, uses more power globally per year than most countries, including the Philippines and Venezuela.
On the other side, members of the crypto community argue that crypto mining is actually good for the environment in several crucial ways. They say that it offers a new, energy-hungry market that will encourage renewable projects. In the long run, they say, crypto will revolutionize the energy grid, and soak up excess energy that would have been otherwise wasted.
As lobbyists have volleyed arguments on both sides, a blow was dealt to crypto mining’s hopes for rapid expansion in the U.S. on June 30 when New York officials denied the air permits of Greenidge Generation, a Bitcoin mining operation, citing “substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the project.” The decision could set a precedent for how local jurisdictions across the country approach a hotly contested topic.
So which side is correct?
To investigate, TIME spoke with several energy and environmental experts to break down some of the crypto community’s main arguments. While some experts say that there’s potential for positive impact from crypto mining, most agree there are few indications that the industry is going in the right direction.
“There is a narrow path upon which they could be useful to the energy system—but I don’t see that happening,” says Joshua Rhodes, an energy research associate at the University of Texas at Austin. And right now, he says, damage is already being done. “Writ large, they’re probably adding to carbon emissions currently.”
Bitcoin’s network relies on groups of computers, all around the world, to run complex math equations. These computing centers act less like “miners” in the literal sense and more like network watchdogs, used for security and stability. The process, known as proof of work, is energy-intensive by design, in order to prevent hacks and attacks.
Crypto advocates argue that the proof-of-work process is becoming more energy efficient: that more and more miners are turning to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, or hydropower, as opposed to coal or natural gas. However, one peer-reviewed study from earlier this year shows the opposite: that the Bitcoin network’s use of renewable energy dropped from an average of 42% in 2020 to 25% in August 2021. Researchers believe that China’s crackdown on crypto, where hydropower-driven mining operations used to be plentiful, was the primary catalyst of this decrease.
At the moment, the rate at which crypto miners use renewable energy sources is heavily disputed. The Bitcoin Mining Council, an industry group, argues that 60% of mining comes from renewable sources, which is 20 percentage points higher than the number listed by the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance. George Kamiya, an energy analyst at the International Energy Agency, says that while the Bitcoin Mining Council likely has access to more data, its numbers come from a self-reported survey that lacks methodological details, and encouraged them to share the underlying data and methodology with outside researchers like Cambridge to increase their credibility.
Regardless of which statistic is closer to the truth, there are still many mining operations using non-green energy sources. In New York, Greenidge repurposed a coal power plant that was previously shuttered. It’s now powered by natural gas, which is also fossil-fuel-based. Yvonne Taylor, vice-president of Seneca Lake Guardian, an environmental non-profit, told TIME in April that Greenidge would emit “over a million tons of CO2 equivalents into the atmosphere every year, in addition to harmful particulate matter.”
A representative for Greenidge wrote in an email to TIME that the company has offered to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from its currently permitted levels by 2025, and that it plans to be a “zero-carbon emitting power generation facility” by 2035. The company also plans to appeal the denial of its air permits and remain operational.
If crypto mining isn’t sustaining itself on renewables right now, might it in the future? Fred Thiel, the CEO of the crypto mining company Marathon Digital Holdings, has announced his intention to make the company fully carbon-neutral by the end of this year, and says that companies like his could have a huge impact on the future of the renewable energy industry.
It’s worth noting that many cryptocurrencies already use much less energy-intensive processes than Bitcoin’s proof of work. Smaller blockchains like Solana and Avalanche use a security mechanism called proof of stake, which Ethereum Foundation researchers claim reduces energy usage by more than 99% compared to Bitcoin’s system. Ethereum, the second largest blockchain behind Bitcoin, is in the process of switching from proof of work to proof of stake this year.
It doesn’t seem like Bitcoin will transition away from proof of work any time soon. But renewable energy developers need customers in order to grow, and proof-of-work miners provide exactly that, Thiel argues. As an example, Thiel suggested that there are wind farms in Vermont that have no ability to sell their energy because of their remote locations and the lack of transmission lines. Putting a crypto mining plant on top of the farms would theoretically give them immediate revenue. “If the goal of this country is to convert to green or sustainable energy forms for the majority of our energy use by 2050, the only way it’s going to happen is if the power generators have an incentive to build the power plants,” Thiel says.
But Thiel declined to give the name of the Vermont wind farms, and a follow-up email to a Marathon representative asking for the name of that operation or any similar ones received no response. Most experts TIME spoke with dispute the idea that there has been any sort of boom in renewables due to crypto. “I am not aware of any specific examples where a major crypto mining project directly—and additionally—boosted renewable energy production,” Kamiya wrote.
“The proof is in the pudding–and I have not seen that play out in the state of Montana,” says Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, whose county hosted energy-intensive mining operations that rankled local communities, leading the local government to restrict miners’ ability to set up new operations.
Joshua Rhodes says that counties in Texas were ”chock-full of renewable projects getting built and turning on” even before the Bitcoin mining rush. He also argues that even if crypto did spur a renewables boom, it might not even help the right places. While wind and solar energy is plentiful in West Texas, for example, it requires extensive infrastructure and transmission lines to run that power back east to the cities that desperately need it, like Houston and Dallas. “All of the cheap electricity can’t get out,” he says.
And even if it were true that crypto mining is creating rapidly accelerating demand for solar and wind farms—which, again, doesn’t seem to yet be the case—there’s the problem of where to put them. Many communities or organizations have opposed them on various grounds ranging from aesthetic to conservational. In New York, Assemblymember Anna Kelles—who spearheaded a bill to impose a moratorium on crypto mining in the state—says that a crypto-driven influx of solar and wind operations would be “directly competing with farmland in New York State at a time when it’s becoming more and more the breadbasket of the country because of climate change.”
With major resistance and long timetables to erect wind and solar projects, impatient crypto miners are more likely to set up shop using other, less clean forms of energy. In Kentucky, abandoned coal mines are being repurposed into crypto mining centers.
If crypto companies aren’t yet supercharging a renewables boom, then maybe they’re helping other ways, like making our electricity grids more resilient. Thiel argues that crypto miners are uniquely suited to help grids for several reasons: that they can be turned off quickly during peak hours of energy usage in a way that, say, pasteurization machines can’t; that they can soak up energy from the grid that would be otherwise wasted; that they can be located very close to sources of energy.
“We voluntarily curtail whenever the grid needs the energy,” Thiel says. “It acts as this ideal buffer for the grid.” During peak stretches of Texas’s energy usage, Thiel says, Marathon has lowered or completely shut off their usage of the grid for two to three hours a day.
Flexible energy loads are, in fact, good for the grid, Rhodes wrote in a study last year.
He found that if crypto miners were willing to curtail their energy usage during peak times so that their annual load is slashed by 13-15%, then their enterprises would help reduce carbon emissions, improve grid resiliency under high-stress periods, and also help foster the shift to renewables.
But Rhodes and others are skeptical that most miners will be willing to operate on someone else’s schedule. Crypto miners have shown that in order to maximize their profits, they would much rather operate 24/7. Strohmaier, in Montana, says that when he met with crypto miners operating in his county about their activity, the topics of grid resilience or curtailment “never came up once. We never got the sense there was any willingness to scale back even for a nanosecond of what they were doing. It was all, ‘We have to keep every one of these machines running—and add more if we are able to remain viable,’” he says.
Thiel says that when there isn’t enough energy from the wind farms to power Marathon’s plants—as wind doesn’t blow all the time—the company then supplements it partially with natural gas from the grid. When asked for a breakdown of Marathon’s energy usage, a representative wrote in an email, “We’re still in the process of installing miners in Texas. It’s hard to estimate what the ultimate mix will be.”
Plenty of electricity gets wasted in the U.S., and crypto miners are hoping to take advantage of it. The process of oil extraction, for example, produces a natural gas byproduct that many companies simply choose to flare (burn off and waste) rather than building the infrastructure to capture it. But in North Dakota, crypto miners signed a deal with Exxon to set up shop directly on site and use gas that would have been flared for new mining operations instead.
Some experts say this process could still be severely damaging. “I don’t see that as a benefit: They’re still burning the gas,” says Anthony Ingraffea, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Cornell University, who co-wrote a paper in 2011 on the environmental hazards of extracting natural gas.
Further, Ingraffea argues, by giving Exxon extra business at their oil drilling sites, crypto mining theoretically incentivizes the fossil fuel industry to keep investing in oil extraction. Kamiya contends that there are other productive uses for flared gas, including producing electricity to be sold back to the grid, but that crypto mining “could disincentivize the operator from finding other uses and markets for its gas that can drive higher emission reductions.”
And crypto miners are running into problems even in ideal energy circumstances. A paper released this month from the Coinbase Institute contends that in Iceland, a “new gold rush” of mining activity has led to minimal environmental impacts due to the country’s “abundant geothermal energy.” But in December, the country experienced a severe electricity shortage, causing its main utility provider to announce they would reject all future crypto mining power requests.
Last year, Greenidge Generation, the crypto mining facility in New York, tried to quell criticisms about its environmental impact by announcing its intention to become carbon neutral. In a press release, the company said it would purchase carbon offsets and invest in renewable energy projects to account for its gas-based emissions.
Replacing fossil-fuel-based energy with renewable energy is certain to be an environmental good. But carbon offsets are not as clear-cut. The offset industry has come under fire from many scientists who say that many such projects are poorly defined and not as helpful as they seem—that it’s common for projects that have no positive environmental impact to be rewarded on technicalities. Offsets essentially allow companies to pay to continue polluting. Greenpeace even called the entire system “a distraction from the real solutions to climate change.”
Carbon offsets “do not reduce global emissions, they just move them around the globe,” Ingraffea says. He argues that they should only be used in the case of emissions that are impossible to reduce.
Many crypto miners feel unfairly targeted about their environmental impact, believing that data centers, which receive far less scrutiny, are just as responsible for increasing carbon emissions.
Multiple experts disagree. “Crypto mining consumes about twice as much electricity as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple combined,” says Kamiya.
Jonathan Koomey, a researcher who has been studying information technology and energy use for more than 30 years, says that the two categories of machines are moving in opposite directions in terms of efficiency. A 2020 study he co-wrote found that while the computing abilities and output of regular data centers had grown vastly between 2010 and 2018, its electricity use barely increased at all. Meanwhile, in Bitcoin mining, “there’s a structural incentive for the entire system to get less efficient over time,” he says. He’s referring to the fact that, generally, Bitcoin miners are forced to solve harder and harder puzzles over time to keep the blockchain functioning—and the computing power to work through those tasks requires increasing amounts of energy.
This claim has been repeated over and over by Bitcoin mining defenders, including Thiel in our interview, in order to deflect attention from Bitcoin mining and onto other large uses of electricity. It’s also completely unsubstantiated. The latest major study on holiday lights came from a paper written in 2008, which put their electricity consumption in the U.S. at 6.63 terawatt hours of electricity per year. (The paper noted that figure would only decrease as LED bulbs became more common). The Bitcoin network, by comparison, consumes an estimated 91 terawatt hours yearly.
Popular online posts on this topic that defend Bitcoin, including from the digital mining operator Mawson, either do not cite any sources for their data or mangle the findings of trusted institutions.
Koomey and other experts say that over the last decade there’s only been one surefire reason crypto mining’s environmental impact can sometimes fall: when cryptocurrency prices go down. During these drops, miners are disincentivized to stay in the market or buy new equipment, and some close up shop, leading to fewer greenhouse-gas emissions. Indeed, as Bitcoin’s value fell from $40,000 to $20,000 from late April to June, industry power usage also dropped by a third according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.
So why should the U.S. allow crypto miners to go on, if they’re harming the environment? Crypto enthusiasts argue that the long-term societal and economic benefits of their industry will offset its electricity usage, just as the computer revolution did before it.
Koomey says that when weighing the possible environmental impacts of crypto, it’s important to take a wide-lens approach: to think about what crypto might add to society overall compared to other energy guzzlers.
“Sure, Google uses a measurable amount of electricity—but I would argue that’s a pretty good use of that electricity,” he says. “So you have to come back to this question for the crypto people, aside from just how much electricity they use: What business value are you delivering? How does this technology perform a function better than the technology that it replaces? Is it worth it?”
Source: Tech – TIME | 2 Jul 2022 | 1:57 am
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