Digital gold currency
||This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality. (May 2009)|
Digital gold currency (or DGC) is a form of electronic money based on ounces of gold. It is a kind of representative money, like a US paper gold certificate at the time (from 1873 to 1933) that these were exchangeable for gold on demand. The typical unit of account for such currency is the gold gram or the troy ounce, although other units such as the gold dinar are sometimes used. DGCs are backed by gold through unallocated or allocated gold storage.
Digital gold currencies are issued by a number of companies, each of which provides a system that enables users to pay each other in units that hold the same value as gold bullion. These competing providers issue a type of independent currency.
- 1 Features
- 2 Risks
- 3 Providers
- 4 Criticisms
- 5 Cultural references
- 6 See also
- 7 References
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2009)|
Proponents claim that DGC offers a truly global and borderless world currency system which is independent of exchange rate variations and political manipulation. Gold, silver, platinum and palladium each have recognized international currency codes under ISO 4217.
Unlike fractional-reserve banking, DGCs hold 100% of clients' funds in reserve as gold, silver, and/or platinum, which can be exchanged via digital certificates. Proponents of DGC systems say that deposits are protected against inflation, devaluation and other economic risks inherent in fiat currencies. These risks include the monetary policy of countries or territories, which are said by proponents to be harmful to the value of paper currency.
clarify] can be used to buy, hold, and sell precious metals, but do not promote themselves as an "investment", as this implies an anticipated return.[clarification needed how can I tell "this system" from others?][
Exchanging national currency
Some providers do not sell DGC directly to clients. For those DGCs, e-currency must be bought and sold via a digital currency exchanger.
Currency exchangers accept payment in national currencies by a variety of methods, including Bank Wire, Direct Deposit, Cheque, Money Order. Some exchangers also sell and fund pre-paid debit cards to make it easier for their clientele to convert DGC into an easily spendable form of national currency.
Unlike the credit card industry, digital gold currency issuers generally do not have services to dispute or reverse charges. So, reversing transactions, even in case of a legitimate error, unauthorized use, or failure of a vendor to supply goods is difficult, if not impossible. This means that using digital gold currency is more akin to a cash transaction, while PayPal transfers, for example, could be considered more similar to credit card transactions.
The advantage of this arrangement is that the operating costs of the digital currency system are greatly reduced by not having to resolve payment disputes. Additionally, it allows digital gold currency transactions to clear instantly, making the funds available immediately to the recipient. By contrast, credit cards, checks, ACH and other reversible payment methods generally have a "clearing time" of 72 hours or more.
Management and political risks
DGCs, like all financial institutions and public securities, have a layer of risk in the form of the management of the issuing institution. Controls aimed to limit management risk are called "governance".
All other[clarification needed] DGC providers operate under self-regulation. DGC providers are not banks and therefore not subject to many bank regulations that pertain to fractional reserve lending as they do not engage in lending. However, DGCs do provide a method for transferring currency from one person to another, and therefore may fall under regulations pertaining to money transmitting in various jurisdictions.
The Global Digital Currency Association (GDCA), which was founded in 2002, is a non-profit association of online currency operators, exchangers, merchants and users. The GDCA is an example of the DGC industry's attempt at self-regulation. On their website they claim their goal is to "further the interests of the industry as a whole and help with fighting fraud and other illegal activities, arbitrate disputes and act as escrow agent when and where required." Of the current DGC providers, Pecunix, Liberty Reserve and eight others have become members of the association. It costs one gram of gold to file a complaint if you are not a member, and the list of filable complaints is not exhaustive. Their domain name is registered anonymously through domains by proxy, see whois.
OS-Gold, Standard Reserve and INTGold
Several companies claiming to be Digital Gold Currencies sprang up and failed between 1999 and 2004, such as OS-Gold, Standard Reserve and INTGold. All these companies failed because the principals diverted deposits for other purposes instead of holding them in the form of gold. In each of these cases, account holders lost several million dollars' worth of gold when the "institution" failed.
e-gold and 1mdc
Following April 27, 2007, the United States Department of Justice forced e-gold to liquidate some 10 to 20 million dollars' worth of e-gold, and is attempting to bring a case against e-gold. e-gold has committed to counter what its founders have declared to be groundless allegations.
1mdc was backed by e-gold, so events that affected e-gold also affected 1mdc. Once e-gold Ltd. was instructed by the US government to freeze and liquidate all 1mdc accounts, 1mdc became insolvent by default along with all other e-gold accounts seized in the April 27 action.
E-Bullion was a digital-gold currency exchange that had risen, then become defunct around 2008.
In August 2008, James Fayed, the owner and chief executive official of the E-Bullion Company, was taken into United States Federal custody to face felony charges of conducting unlicensed money transactions and the murder of his business partner. In January 2010, e-Bullion had closed for business and the website had ceased to be available. In June 2011 a California jury found Fayed guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.
Digital gold systems are completely dependent on electronic storage and transmission of account ownership information. Therefore the security of a given digital currency account is dependent upon the security of the issuer as well as the security of the accountholder's computer.
While the digital gold issuers employ data security experts to protect their systems, the average accountholder's computer is poorly protected against malware (trojans, worms and viruses) that can be used to intercept information used to access the user's DGC account. Therefore the most common attacks on digital currency systems are directed against accountholders' computers by the use of malicious spam, phishing and other methods.
Issuers have taken quite different approaches to this problem. E-gold basically places the entire responsibility on the user, and employs a user-name and password authentication system that is weak and highly vulnerable to interception by malware. (Though it is the most common authentication method used by online banks.) The "not our problem" approach to user security has negatively contributed to e-gold's public image, as not a few e-gold accounts have been hacked and swept clean by attackers..
e-Bullion offers account holders a "Cryptocard" security token that changes the passphrase with each logon, but charges the account holder USD $99.50 for the token. E-bullion does not require customers to use the Cryptocard, so account holders who choose not to get one may suffer from the same security issues as e-gold customers.
Pecunix devised a unique rotating key system that provides many of the benefits of a security token without requiring the user to buy one. Pecunix also supports the use of PGP signatures to access an account, which is probably the strongest of all authentication methods.
Digital gold currency is a form of representative money as it directly represents gold metal on deposit or in custody. This depends on the issuer. Most issuers have the gold on deposit - i.e., the issuer will redeem the digital currency obligation with physical metal. Just as the exchange rates of national currencies fluctuate against each other, the exchange rates of DGCs fluctuate against national currencies, which is reflected by the price of gold in a particular currency. This creates exchange risk for any account holder, in the same way one would experience exchange risk by holding a bank account in a foreign currency.
Some DGC holders make use of the digital currency for daily monetary transactions, even though most of their normal income and expenses are denominated in the national currency of their home country. Fluctuations in the value of gold against their national currency can create some confusion and difficulty for new users as they see the "value" of their DGC account fluctuate in terms of their native currency.
In contrast to exchange risk, caused by gold's fluctuation against national currency, the purchasing power of gold (and therefore DGCs) is measured by its fluctuation against other commodities, goods and services. Since gold has historically been the refuge of choice in times of inflation or economic hardship, the purchasing power of gold becomes stronger during times of negative sentiment in the markets. Due to this speculative interference, there are times when purchasing power has also declined. For example, in 2007–2008, gold volatility closely tracked the run-up in oil prices.
Comparison of operating DGCs (as of February 2011[update]):
|Digital gold currency||Birth||Death||Financially regulated||GDCA
|DCE transfers accepted||Wire transfers accepted||Annual storage fee||Processing fee
(when receiving from another user)
|e-dinar||2000||Undisclosed||Undisclosed||1%||1% (with max. 0.015 gold dinar)|
|Pecunix||2002||2,777 oz gold||Undisclosed||0%||0.15 - 0.50% (with min. 0.0001 - max. 3.0 gold grams)|
|e-gold||1999||2008||Undisclosed||blocked by USG||1%||1%|
DGC providers and exchangers have been accused of being a medium for fraudulent high-yield investment program (HYIP) schemes. In January 2006, BusinessWeek reported that ShadowCrew, an online gang, used the e-gold system in a massive identity theft and fraud scheme. Traditional banks are also used frequently for such fraud. Allegations that e-gold is a safe medium for crime and fraud are strongly denied by its Chairman and founder, Dr. Douglas Jackson. Further, it can be argued that such problems lay with the source of the information or monies, rather than the location of storage of such ill-gotten gains. In other words, it would be difficult to claim the bank as villain when the criminal activity occurred by other parties away from the storage location.
Many DGC providers do not disclose the amount of bullion stored (see table), or do not allow independent external bullion audits, raising concerns that such companies do not maintain a 100% reserve ratio, or that their currency is entirely virtual and not backed by physical gold at all.
- The novel Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson uses the idea of a gold-based digital currency in combination with strong cryptography.
- The novel Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman features several types of competing DGCs.[not specific enough to verify]
- The novel Molon Labe! by Kenneth W. Royce features a gold based digital accounting system very similar to DGCs.[not specific enough to verify]
- The novel Minerva by Robert P. Murphy features DGCs prominently.
- The novel The Cryptographer by Tobias Hill is centered around Soft Gold, a DGC.[not specific enough to verify]
- The novel The Way to Freedom by Carl Kyler is about gold money and digital cold currencies.
- Global Digital Currency Association Ltd.
- "OS-Gold", The Gold Economy Magazine, September 2002
- "Why Standard Reserve Failed", The Gold Economy Magazine, May 2003
- "INTGold", The Gold Economy Magazine, September 2003
- "Digital Currency Business E-Gold Indicted for Money Laundering and Illegal Money Transmitting". US Department of Justice. April 27, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- "e-gold Founder Denies Criminal Charges". e-gold. April 30, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- Tang, Frank (January 22, 2008). "US gold bounces on inflation fears, safe haven bid". Reuters.
- "TedBits", Ty Andros, Trader View, April, 2008, http://news.goldseek.com/GoldSeek/1207289100.php
- https://www.e-dinar.com/cgi/?page=dinardirham&a=_1 [The Islamic Dinar is a specific weight of 22k gold (.917) equivalent to 4.25 grams]
- "Gold Rush". Business Week. January 9, 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- "Letter from Dr. Douglas Jackson; Chairman, e-gold, Ltd.". 6 January 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- Stephenson, Neal (2002). Cryptonomicon. New York: Avon Books. pp. 387, 476–477, 500, 659. ISBN 0-06-051280-6.
- Murphy, Robert P. (2004). "Minerva". strike-the-root.com.
- Kyler, Carl (2010). "The Way to Freedom".