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MobileCoin is a censored, Monero wannabe, premined cash-grab from Signal

Some of you may have heard that Signal is [testing payments in the app for UK users](https://signal.org/blog/help-us-test-payments-in-signal/). You may think “yay crypto adoption!” Don’t.

MobileCoin is a new cryptocurrency that takes the basic building blocks of Monero (RingCT, Bulletproofs, subaddresses, etc) and implements them in Rust. Then it implements in Signal, a leading messaging application that I have been using for 7 years.

Sadly, that’s where the cool parts end. There are a huge number of concerns below:

### MobileCoin is 100% premined

100% of the supply was created in 16 outputs that can be distributed however the initial founders like. There is extremely limited information about how they will be distributed, though it’s highly likely that the founders will keep some for themselves.

### MobileCoin seems to be a monetization strategy for Signal

I am told by a trusted source that the investment pitch of MobileCoin to VCs was that it would be implemented in Signal. MobileCoin seems to be a monetization strategy for Signal.

Monetization alone isn’t bad, but Signal should be up-front about what this is. Instead, they are telling media misleading statements while the Signal board is profiting through another venture. Signal would not just choose MobileCoin over Monero if there weren’t other incentives involved.

### MobileCoin relies on Intel SGX to verify transactions

Simply, MobileCoin uses trusted Intel SGX hardware to verify transactions. Many experts believe this is a terrible security assumption. It’s unclear to me at this stage what would happen if these assumptions start to break down. You also rely on Intel SGX to not have a backdoor.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/03/hackers-can-steal-secret-data-stored-in-intels-sgx-secure-enclave/

https://wccftech.com/intel-cpu-plundervolt-flaw-spills-secrets-through-voltage-manipulation/

### The MobileCoin team seems intent to discredit Monero wherever they can

Monero is a pretty well-respected project in the cryptocurrency space. In my mind, the fact that MobileCoin used so much cryptography researched at the Monero Research Lab speaks to the opportunity for a mutual relationship. Ideally, MobileCoin could use some of its resources to contribute back to Monero and support research they are using.

Instead, they don’t mention Monero at all. They instead mention CryptoNote, a protocol that doesn’t have RingCT or subaddresses. It’s one thing to disagree with certain design decisions, but it’s obviously in poor taste to not mention the people who did all this work AT ALL https://twitter.com/fluffypony/status/1379559273504641025

Further, a MobileCoin developer describes Monero as “having literally the worst codebase I’ve ever seen.” https://twitter.com/fluffypony/status/1379603450175053825

Edit for balance: Monero is mentioned in one technical document written by the same author of Zero to Monero: https://twitter.com/selsta541/status/1379809205864050691

### MobileCoin is blocked in some countries, including the US, and MobileCoin supports currency controls

MobileCoin actively blocks US users as a crude compliance measure, as well as users in other countries. Using MobileCoin in these jurisdictions is against their ToS. Do you ever wish Bitcoin wasn’t available to US users? I didn’t think so.

MobileCoin supports “currency controls”: “At MobileCoin, we believe governments have a legitimate interest in regulating the economic lives of their citizens.” https://twitter.com/_benkaufman/status/1379760279324614664

### Summary

If you want a premined, centralized coin that censors transactions, with security assumptions reliant on Intel, and which makes a bunch of VCs rich, then use MobileCoin. Otherwise, use Monero.

This whole MobileCoin release was going to be bad even in the best of cases if they support censorship. But they actively made it even worse with their actions. MobileCoin reflects poorly on Signal, something I have recommended in the past. I will encourage all users to use [Matrix](https://matrix.org) instead.

Thanks to Seth for their excellent Tweet on the topic: https://twitter.com/sethisimmons/status/1379791201558278144



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25 Comments

  1. >At MobileCoin, we believe governments have a *legitimate* interest in regulating the economic lives of their citizens.
    >
    >Good monetary policies help keep economies healthy and currency controls help fight criminals and terrorists.

    Yeah. Doesn’t sound like a privacy-centered coin to me.

  2. I remember reading a couple months back how many Signal employees were against the integration of mobilecoin onto the platform.

    Clearly this is a cash grab by Signal, which I feel seems to sway away from the general ethos of the company. Just a strange move…especially considering Monero could have (potentially) been integrated onto the platform.

    I suppose we see what happens next. My hope is privacy remains in tact, especially considering the individuals using Signal.

  3. This is alarming news. With the recent mass migration from WhatsApp I’ve been promoting Signal to my friends and now Signal is slowly turning into something they were supposed to destroy.

  4. Given the little I know about signal, the last quote is the most surprising to me:

    > MobileCoin supports “currency controls”: “At MobileCoin, we believe governments have a legitimate interest in regulating the economic lives of their citizens.”

  5. Damn didn’t know this. I saw this coin being hyped by a lot of people, and being seen as a WhatsApp/ telegram alternative, thanks for bringing the whole picture into sight

  6. Definitely reeks of cash grab tbh, with the founder of Signal being involved in MobileCoin. If they really cared about/wanted to integrate private payments, they would’ve used something pre-existing and battle tested.

    Shame, I had a pretty good impression of Signal until now.

  7. Stuff like this is why I don’t think I’ll buy any other coin than ETH/BTC – I don’t have the time to DYOR and find out what’s a scam and what isn’t :\

  8. Signal has done some shady shit recently. They’ve updated their open source backend code after god knows how long and it has been gone from v3 to v5 in a single day lol.

  9. Signal is shady as hell these days. I honestly would not trust them with sensetive data and recommend Session or Telegram as alternatives for anyone not aware of them.

    Mobilecoin is, naturally, a hard no also. If you want privacy, Monero is the tried and tested crypto and using anything else is rolling the dice at this point.

  10. So many copycats on the market, the problem is that is so easy to copy and idea or copy the code, that is something that I see as a problem on the crypto market, the most significant difference between projects are the developers and the people who run the project, let’s just hope that the originals survive and that people can support the original project

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