Global privacy regulators raise concerns about Libra

Global privacy regulators raise concerns about Libra
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A group of privacy regulators from around the world is raising concerns about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency project and its implications for sensitive user information.

The United Kingdom's Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) joined with data watchdogs from the U.S., European Union, Canada, Australia, Albania and Burkina Faso to issue a joint statement Monday raising questions about how the Libra project will protect the privacy of its users.

“The involvement of Facebook Inc. as a founding member of the Libra Association has the potential to drive rapid uptake by consumers around the globe, including in countries which may not yet have data protection laws in place,” the officials said. “Once the Libra Network goes live, it may instantly become the custodian of millions of people’s personal information.”

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“This combination of vast reserves of personal information with financial information and cryptocurrency amplifies our privacy concerns about the Libra Network’s design and data sharing arrangements,” the statement continues.

The only U.S. official to sign the statement was Rohit Chopra, one of the Democrats in the minority at the Federal Trade Commission.

The statement was addressed to Facebook and the 28 organizations that make up the Libra Association, a Swiss organization set up to oversee the currency.

“We know that the Libra Network has already opened dialogue with many financial regulators on how it intends to comply with financial services product rules,” Elizabeth Denham, who leads the ICO, said in a separate statement. “However, given the rapid plans for Libra and Calibra, we are concerned that there is little detail available about the information handling practices that will be in place to secure and protect personal information.”

The group of regulators asked the Libra Association to answer a list of questions about how it intends to handle user privacy.

The project has come under fire within the U.S., with several lawmakers calling on Facebook to put the project on hold until their concerns have been addressed.

"We appreciate these thoughtful questions and share the commitment to protecting personal information," Libra Association spokesman Dante Disparte said in a statement.

"As much as Libra represents an opportunity for the world to make inroads on financial inclusion, we acknowledge the need to design an infrastructure that complies with global privacy requirements."

This story was updated on Aug. 7 at 1:13 p.m.