Facebook Targets Bitcoin with New Cryptocurrency

Facebook's Libra consortium has been joined by over 12 companies including Mastercard Visa Pay Pal and Uber. ─ AP  File

In addition to Facebook and Calibra, there are a number of payment processors in the Libra Association, including MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal. Facebook is now under federal investigation over its privacy practices, and along with other technology giants also faces a new antitrust probe in Congress. "This could raise further raise yellow flags as more regulators focus on Facebook". Bitcoin itself remains shrouded in secrecy and fraud concerns, not to mention wild value fluctuations, making it unappealing for the average shopper.

"Libra is a global, digitally native, reserve-backed cryptocurrency built on the foundation of blockchain technology", the company wrote on a new website dedicated to the rollout. 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. That could range from Uber discounts to a Libra bonus paid when users set up a Calibra wallet, although the companies haven't laid out specifics.

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. The association will be regulated by Swiss financial authorities, Facebook said.

The first product to be developed through Calibra will be a digital wallet service that will be available as a standalone app or accessible through the Facebook, Whatsapp and Messenger platforms.

With Facebook's questionable reputation for respecting people's privacy, getting people to trust in Calibra/Libra might not be easy, but the firm says it will not use the data for ad targeting, and user data will only be shared with Facebook and third parties when it has customer consent, or when law enforcement requests it.

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Calibra engineers are involved in building the blockchain, though Facebook says it intends to keep the currency and the wallet in separate entities.

It's very early days for Calibra / Libra, but as the sole music service involved from day one, Spotify will have a close-up view of how the project develops, and how the resulting technology could be used in its business.

Technically, the Libra network will be a permissioned, blockchain-like network.

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.

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