Mining cryptocurrency has been a viable means for many people to make money. The foundation of coins as a decentralized system (aka blockchain) allows for increased security and privacy, less chance for technical failures, and gives coinholders more control and freedom over how to purchase and sell currencies. The relative ease of mining currencies has hit the mainstream finally it seems, as companies try to make revenue ends meet by using mining pools, which would be okay if they were actually disclosing it to the customers they're siphoning CPU off of.
Mining Pool Breakdown
First off, we need to understand how it works. A mining pool is a group of people (with hardware) who agree to share coin payouts for contributing processing power to the pool of servers to aid in mining coins. There are many mining pools across the world, with most of the largest ones being housed in China. You shouldn't really jump into a mining pool without researching it first, as some may not be secure or trade in coins a user might not necessarily want.
"We dream about it [Coinhive] as an alternative to micro payments, artificial wait times in online games, intrusive ads, and dubious marketing tactics." their website explains.
Using Your CPU Without Your Consent
Reports of non-disclosed CPU usage for coin mining were around as early as this Forbes article back in 2013, when an online gaming company was charged $1MN in a class action lawsuit for using gamer's computers to mine for coins without any consent. The software not only mined coins when users weren't active on their PCs, it could access files, take screenshots, and monitor all computer activity. Somehow, a $1MN payout doesn't seem enough for this level of intrusion, but that is perhaps due to the fact that cryptocurrencies are still vastly unregulated; there's no one holding people accountable except harmed consumers.
Users seemed generally okay with the system, forgoing some of their processing power if they didn't have to be inundated by ads. Plus they get all their content for free anyway since The Pirate Bay is an illegal torrenting site. Some were however concerned about the lack of disclosure.
While CBS and Showtime declined to comment on the matter, Coinhive released the following statement on their website:
"We're a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate Coinhive into their pages without disclosing to their users what's going on, let alone asking for their permission."
The Verge reports that Coinhive said it would now ask people permission to use their CPU (excess CPU usage causes computers to lag, freeze, or crash), but there are many different coin miners and many different cryptocurrencies that run these scripts, not just Coinhive. The code still seems to be running on Showtime's website showtimeanytime.com, and while media companies are having a hard time generating enough revenue from ads due to ad-blockers, lying to your customers to make some money doesn't really seem like the way to go about it.
— Bad Packets Report (@bad_packets) September 25, 2017
As cryptocurrencies come out of the shadows to mixed reactions we all will have to be dilligent in continuing to hold companies accountable for sketchy schemes to make a quick buck off of our data and time. Showtime would do well to come clean for its part in not properly disclosing the scripts, and others should not follow their example.
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