Published: Tue, June 18, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Facebook Targets Bitcoin with New Cryptocurrency

Facebook Targets Bitcoin with New Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies such as Libra store all transactions on a widely distributed, encrypted "ledger" known as the blockchain.

Facebook says it won't control the Libra network once it launches.

David Marcus, who is heading Facebook's cryptocurrency operation, tweeted on Tuesday that Libra is in part aimed at "the 1.7 billion people who are still unbanked 30 years after the invention of the web".

Many analysts believe Zuckerberg wants to create a USA version of the Chinese service WeChat, which combines social networking, messaging and payments in a single app. Libra would take Facebook a step closer to that end. Unlike most cryptocurrencies now out there, Facebook's Libra will be backed by a reserve of real assets, which means its value will remain largely stable. While Facebook has created the cryptocurrency, it has put it in the hands of a non-profit organization that includes Mastercard, Visa, eBay, PayPal, Stripe, Uber, Lyft, and a bunch of other service providers and venture capital companies. Facebook says it aims to make it as easy to send money around the world as it is to send a photo.

The association plans to move toward a permissionless blockchain within five years of Libra's launch. "In joining the Libra Association, there is an opportunity to better reach Spotify's total addressable market, eliminate friction and enable payments in mass scale".

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Pre-empting privacy concerns, the press release states that "Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook or any third party without customer consent".

It will be available as a standalone app on smartphones, as well as a button within Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp products.

Security measures aside, the move comes at a delicate time for Facebook, which is in the cross-hairs of regulators in the US and Europe over its allegedly anti-competitive behavior, its use of data and the policing of its platform. Facebook dubs it a "new global currency powered by blockchain technology".

Facebook hopes Calibra will help those people for whom even the most basic financial services are inaccessible. Furthermore, the social network company mentions that Calibra will use Facebook data to comply with the law, secure customers' accounts and prevent criminal activity.

Whether or not those promises mean anything after Facebook's numerous privacy scandals is ultimately up to each individual, but Facebook is trying to make it clear that it's taking privacy seriously with the roll out of Calibra and Libra.

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