Libra (cryptocurrency)

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Libra
Libra logo.svg
Denominations
Symbol
Development
White paperLibra whitepaper
Initial release2020 (projected)
Code repositorygithub.com/libra/libra
Development statusAnnounced
Written inRust
Developer(s)Libra Association, Facebook Inc.
Source modelOpen source
LicenseApache License[1]
Websitelibra.org

Libra is a permissioned blockchain digital currency proposed by the American social media company Facebook.

The currency and network do not yet exist, and only rudimentary experimental code has been released.[2] The launch is planned to be in 2020.[3]

The project, currency and transactions are to be managed and cryptographically entrusted to the Libra Association, a membership organization of companies from payment, technology, telecommunication, online marketplace and venture capital, and nonprofits.

History[edit]

Morgan Beller started working on cryptocurrency and blockchain at Facebook in 2017, and was initially the only person working on Facebook's blockchain initiative.[4]

Facebook vice president David A. Marcus moved from Facebook Messenger to a new blockchain division in May 2018.[5] First reports of Facebook planning a cryptocurrency, with Marcus in charge, emerged a few days later.[6] By February 2019, there were more than 50 engineers working on the project.[7]

Confirmation that Facebook intended a cryptocurrency first emerged in May 2019.[8] At this time it was known as "GlobalCoin" or "Facebook Coin".[9]

Libra was formally announced on June 18, 2019.[10][11] The creators of the coin are listed as Morgan Beller, David Marcus and Kevin Weil (Calibra's VP of Product).[4]

A first version is projected to be released in 2020.[12]

On July 15, 2019, Facebook announced the currency will not launch until all regulatory concerns have been met and Libra has the "appropriate approvals".[13]

In a meeting with top Senate Democratic leaders on September 18, 2019, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers that Libra would not be launched anywhere in the world without first obtaining approval from United States regulators.[14]

PayPal left the Libra Association on 4 October 2019.[15] eBay, Mastercard, Stripe, Visa and Mercado Pago followed on 11 October,[16][17] and Bookings Holdings on 14 October.[18]

Currency[edit]

The plan is for the Libra token to be backed by financial assets such as a basket of currencies,[19] and US Treasury securities in an attempt to avoid volatility.[20] Facebook has announced that each of the partners will inject an initial US$10 million, so Libra has full asset backing on the day it opens.[21]

Libra service partners, within the Libra Association, will create new Libra currency units based on demand.[21] Libra currency units will be retired as they are redeemed for conventional currency.

Initial reconciliation of transactions will be performed at each service partner, and the blockchain's distributed ledger will be used for reconciliation between service partners.[22] The intent is to help prevent everyone but members of the Libra Association from trying to extract and analyse data from the distributed ledger.

In contrast to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin which use permissionless blockchains, Libra is not decentralized, relying on trust in the Libra Association as "a de facto central bank".[23].

In September, Facebook announced that the reserve basket would be made up of: 50% United States dollar, 18% Euro, 14% Japanese yen, 11% Pound sterling and 7% Singapore dollar.[24]

Libra Association[edit]

Facebook established the Libra Association to oversee the currency, founded in Geneva, Switzerland.[25]

Seven other companies had been named as Libra Association members in the initial June 2019 announcement, but left before the first Libra meeting on 14 October 2019: Booking Holdings, eBay, Mastercard, Mercado Pago, PayPal, Stripe and Visa Inc. Visa chairman and CEO Alfred F. Kelly clarified in July that Visa had not joined, but had signed a nonbinding letter of intent; and that "no one has yet officially joined." He said that factors determining whether Visa would, in fact, join included "the ability of the association to satisfy all the requisite regulatory requirements."[27]

Press coverage around the initial Libra announcement noted the absence of Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon and of any banks.[28][29][30] Banking executives had been reluctant to join due to uncertainties surrounding regulation and feasibility of the scheme.[31]

The association hopes to grow to 100 members with an equal vote, while Facebook expects to "maintain a leadership role through 2019".[32]

Reception[edit]

The project has faced criticism[28][33] and opposition from central banks.[34] The use of a cryptocurrency and blockchain for the implementation has been questioned.[26]

US regulatory response[edit]

US regulators and politicians expressed concerns close on the mid-2019 announcement. Maxine Waters, Chairperson of the United States House Committee on Financial Services Committee asked Facebook to halt the development and launch of Libra, citing a list of recent scandals and that "the cryptocurrency market currently lacks a clear regulatory framework".[35] The U.S. House Committee on Financial Services Democrats sent a letter to Facebook asking the company to stop development of Libra, citing concerns of privacy, national security, trading, and monetary policy.[36]

Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, testified before Congress on 10 July that the Fed had "serious concerns" as to how Libra would deal with "money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability."[37]

President Donald Trump tweeted on 12 July that "If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations."[38]

US regulators contacted Visa, PayPal, Mastercard and Stripe, asking for a complete overview of how Libra would fit into their anti-money-laundering compliance programs.[39]

France[edit]

In September 2019, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire stated that the nation won't allow development of the cryptocurrency in Europe as it is a threat to the monetary sovereignty of nations. He also spoke about the potential for abuse of marketing dominance and systemic financial risks as reasons for not allowing cryptocurrency in Europe.[40]

International regulatory response[edit]

French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, told French radio station Europe 1 that Libra could not be allowed to become a sovereign currency. He warned French Parliament of his concerns about Libra and privacy, money laundering and terrorism finance. He called on the central bank governors of the Group of Seven to prepare a report on Facebook's plans.[34]

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said there was a need to keep an "open mind" about new technology for money transfers, but "anything that works in this world will become instantly systemic and will have to be subject to the highest standards of regulation."[34]

German MEP Markus Ferber warned that Facebook could become a shadow bank.[34]

The government of Japan has begun the process of investigating Libra and doing an analysis on the effect on Japan's monetary policy and financial regulation. This will be done before the Group of Seven meeting in France between 24–26 August 2019.[41]

The Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner, that David Marcus told the US Senate would oversee privacy for Libra, said that it had not heard from Facebook at all.[42]

Data protection regulators internationally issued a statement[43] asking Facebook to protect personal data of users, and to detail Libra's planned practices for handling personal data, in the light of "previous episodes where Facebook’s handling of people’s information has not met the expectations of regulators, or their own users."[44]

Finance Watch describes Libra as a "huge risk to public monetary sovereignty"[45] and "concludes that Libra is a bad idea – for its users, for the stability of our financial system, and last but not least for our democracy."[46]

On September 16, 2019, officials from the Libra consortium, including J.P. Morgan and Facebook, met with officials from 26 central banks, including the Federal Reserve and Bank of England, in Basel, Switzerland and the meeting was chaired by European Central Bank board member Benoît Cœuré, a vocal Libra critic.[47]

Privacy concerns[edit]

Industry observers have speculated whether Libra will provide meaningful privacy to its users.[48] Facebook's plan is to let its subsidiary Calibra manage Libra for Facebook users, and Facebook executives have stated that Calibra will not share account holder's purchase information with Facebook without authorization.[49] However, the system is also planned to include a friend-finder search function, and the use of this function will constitute permission for Calibra to combine the account holder's transaction history with their Facebook account.[22]

Fake Libra websites[edit]

Facebook tries to police inaccurate information and fake Libra websites on its platform.[50]

Implementation[edit]

Blockchain consensus[edit]

Libra will not rely on cryptocurrency mining.[26] Only members of the Libra Association will be able to process transactions via the permissioned blockchain.

Libra hopes to begin transitioning to a permissionless proof-of-stake system within five years;[11] although their own materials admit that no solution exists "that can deliver the scale, stability, and security needed to support billions of people and transactions across the globe through a permissionless network."[51][2]

Software[edit]

Libra's source code is written in Rust and published as open source under the Apache License with the launch on 18 June 2019.

Elaine Ou, an opinion writer at Bloomberg News, tried compiling and running the publicly released code for Libra. As supplied, the software did little more than allow fake coins to be put in a wallet; almost none of the functionality outlined in the white paper is implemented, including "major architectural features that have yet to be invented." Ou was surprised that Facebook "would release software in such a state."[2]

Digital wallet[edit]

Facebook plans to release a digital wallet called Calibra in 2020, made available in Messenger, WhatsApp, as well as in a standalone app.[3]

Move[edit]

Move is the Libra blockchain's proposed smart contract and custom transactions language. It is planned to be a statically-typed programming language, compiled to bytecode.

The Move language syntax has not been released yet. An example Intermediate representation of the language is shown in the Move white paper:[52]

public main(payee: address, amount: u64) {
    let coin: 0x0.Currency.Coin = 0x0.Currency.withdraw_from_sender(copy(amount));
    0x0.Currency.deposit(copy(payee), move(coin));
}

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Libra Software License". Github.
  2. ^ a b c Ou, Elaine (20 June 2019). "I Tried Using Facebook's Libra Blockchain. It Didn't Work". Bloomberg News.
  3. ^ a b "Facebook's Calibra cryptocurrency wallet launches in 2020". Engadget.
  4. ^ a b Rodriguez, Salvador (20 July 2019). "Meet Morgan Beller, the 26-year-old woman behind Facebook's plan to make its own currency". CNBC Tech. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  5. ^ Liao, Shannon (2018-05-08). "Facebook is creating a mysterious blockchain division". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  6. ^ Gartenberg, Chaim (2018-05-11). "Facebook reportedly plans to launch its own cryptocurrency". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  7. ^ Popper, Nathaniel; Isaac, Mike (2019-02-28). "Facebook and Telegram Are Hoping to Succeed Where Bitcoin Failed". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  8. ^ Andriotis, AnnaMaria; Hoffman, Liz; Rudegeair, Peter; Horwitz, Jeff (2 May 2019). "Facebook Building Cryptocurrency-Based Payments System". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  9. ^ Social Media Monopolies and Cryptocurrencies: Facebook's Proposed Coin. Cybersecurity, Privacy, & Networks eJournal. Social Science Research Network. (SSRN). Accessed June 19, 2019.
  10. ^ Isaac, Mike; Popper, Nathaniel (18 June 2019). "Facebook Plans Global Financial System Based on Cryptocurrency". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  11. ^ a b Constine, Josh (18 June 2019). "Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: All you need to know". TechCrunch. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Facebook Unveils Libra Cryptocurrency, Sets Launch For 2020". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  13. ^ Bain, Ben; Weinstein, Austin (2019-07-16). "Facebook Says Libra Won't Launch Until Regulators Satisfied". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  14. ^ Romm, Tony (2019-09-19). "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg seeks to reassure wary lawmakers about Libra, elections in rare D.C. trip". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  15. ^ Rooney, Lauren Feiner,Kate (2019-10-04). "PayPal withdraws from Facebook's libra cryptocurrency". CNBC. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  16. ^ Feiner, Lauren (2019-10-11). "Facebook's libra cryptocurrency coalition is falling apart as eBay, Visa, Mastercard and Stripe jump ship". CNBC. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  17. ^ Brandom, Russell (2019-10-11). "Facebook's Libra Association crumbling as Visa, Mastercard, Stripe, and others exit". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  18. ^ Light, Joe; Carville, Olivia (14 October 2019). "Libra Loses a Quarter of Its Members as Booking Holdings Exits". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2019-10-14.
  19. ^ Caroline Binham, Chris Giles, and David Keohane (June 18, 2019). "Facebook's Libra currency draws instant response from regulators". Financial Times.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  20. ^ Duffy, Clare. "Facebook wants to make cryptocurrency mainstream. Here's how". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
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  22. ^ a b Robert Hackett (2019-06-18). "Facebook Cryptocurrency: Calibra's Privacy Implications". Fortune magazine. Retrieved 2019-06-19. People who use Calibra will have to trust Facebook's internal firewalls and security measures, of course. And there's a lot of data here that hackers and snoops might like to access. In order to abide by standard "know-your-customer" and "anti-money laundering" laws, Calibra will have to verify people's identities through a thorough process, collecting government-issued IDs and other personal details and documentation. It will be incumbent upon Calibra to keep this data confidential and secure.
  23. ^ Brandom, Russell (June 18, 2019). "Facebook's cryptocurrency has a trust problem". The Verge.
  24. ^ Bartz, Tim (2019-09-20). "Absicherung von Kryptogeld: Facebook verzichtet bei Libra auf chinesische Währung". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  25. ^ "Libra Association | A not-for-profit organization". libra.org.
  26. ^ a b c Cellan-Jones, Rory (June 18, 2019). "Why Facebook wants to be money's future". BBC News.
  27. ^ "Visa, Inc. (V) Q3 2019 Earnings Call: Corrected Transcript" (PDF). Visa, Inc. 23 July 2019.
  28. ^ a b Kaminska, Izabella (18 June 2019). "Alphaville's Libra cheat sheet". Financial Times.
  29. ^ Surane, Jennifer; Verhage, Julie; Wagner, Kurt (18 June 2019). "Facebook's Cryptocurrency Project: Who's In and Who's Out". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2019-10-20.
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  31. ^ Murphy, Hannah (18 June 2019). "Facebook unveils global digital coin called Libra". Financial Times. Retrieved 2019-10-20.
  32. ^ Morse, Andrew. "Here's what you need to know about Libra, Facebook's cryptocurrency". CNET.
  33. ^ Kaminska, Izabella (18 June 2019). "Zuckerberg: The man who would be monetary king". The Financial Times. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  34. ^ a b c d Marsh, Alastair (18 June 2019). "France Calls for Central Bank Review of Facebook Token". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  35. ^ Wong, Queenie (2019-06-18). "US lawmaker wants Facebook to halt its Libra cryptocurrency project". CNET. Archived from the original on 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  36. ^ "Committee Democrats Call on Facebook to Halt Cryptocurrency Plans". U.S. House Committee on Financial Services Democrats. 2019-07-02. Archived from the original on 2019-07-03. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  37. ^ Popper, Nathaniel; Isaac, Mike; Smialek, Jeanna (2019-07-10). "Fed Chair Raises 'Serious Concerns' About Facebook's Cryptocurrency Project". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-07-10. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  38. ^ Murphy, Hannah (12 July 2019). "Donald Trump hits out at Facebook's Libra and bitcoin". Financial Times. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  39. ^ Rudegeair, AnnaMaria Andriotis and Peter (2019-10-02). "Visa, Mastercard, Others Reconsider Involvement in Facebook's Libra Network". WSJ. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  40. ^ "France Finance Minister Calls Facebook Libra a Threat to 'Monetary Sovereignty'". News18. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  41. ^ Hill, Paul (2019-07-13). "Japan becomes the latest country to investigate Facebook's Libra". Neowin. Reuters. Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  42. ^ Schulze, Elizabeth (July 16, 2019). "Swiss group that's supposed to oversee privacy for Libra says it hasn't heard from Facebook at all". CNBC.
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  44. ^ Murphy, Hannah (5 August 2019). "Facebook's cryptocurrency raises privacy questions, say regulators". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  45. ^ Grandjean, Pablo (2019-08-14). "Don't let Facebook take over the financial system". Finance Watch. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  46. ^ Stiefmüller, Christian M. (2019-07-22). "Libra: Heads I win – tails you lose" (PDF). Finance Watch.
  47. ^ Browne, Ryan (2019-09-16). "Facebook and JP Morgan meet with global central banks to discuss cryptocurrencies". CNBC. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  48. ^ Jeff John Roberts (2019-06-18). "Facebook's Project Libra: 5 Things to Know About the Cryptocurrency". Fortune magazine. Archived from the original on 2019-06-18. Retrieved 2019-06-19. So, in theory, only Calibra will have a record of your transactions. But many Calibra users may decide to use its integrated Facebook friend-finding feature, and if they do, their data will be combined.
  49. ^ Jacob Passy (2019-06-19). "Why Facebook's Libra coin could become a big pain in your wallet". Market Watch. Retrieved 2019-06-19. Libra will be a “stablecoin,” linked to the value of other currencies, unlike other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin BTC, -4.27% Consumers who use Facebook’s Messenger service, WhatsApp or a stand-alone app will be able to access Libra through a digital wallet managed by new Facebook subsidiary Calibra.
  50. ^ "Analysis | The Technology 202: Libra fakes undermine Facebook's cryptocurrency charm offensive". Washington Post.
  51. ^ "Libra White Paper | Blockchain, Association, Reserve". Libra.org.
  52. ^ "Move: A Language With Programmable Resources · Libra". developers.libra.org. Retrieved 2019-06-19.

External links[edit]