Swiss Data Protection Watchdog Awaits Official Details On Facebook’s Libra Project


The Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) said it is still waiting to hear from Facebook regarding its supposed oversight of Libra, the social media giant's proposed cryptocurrency.

The FDPIC said it is still waiting to hear back after it wrote a letter on July 17 asking for more details about the project, Reuters is reporting.

This comes after David Marcus, who oversees Facebook’s currency project, said at a U.S. Senate hearing earlier this month he expected the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner to be Libra’s privacy regulator. This is because the nonprofit Libra Association, which Facebook had set up to oversee the currency, is based in Geneva.

In a statement, the FDPIC said it sent a letter to the association on July 17 because it had not yet heard from the group about the project.

The FDPIC said soon after the Senate hearing that the lack of contact from the social media giant about Libra had prompted it to send the letter. In an official statement the agency stated:

“The FDPIC is currently waiting for the Libra Association to respond to [its] letter of 17 July 2019 and set out their official position.”

Among other things, the Swiss data privacy authority said it was expecting Libra to conduct an impact assessment of data protection risks associated with the cryptocurrency, evaluate risks and propose measures to minimize them. The watchog explained:

“The FDPIC stated in its letter that as it had not received any indication on what personal data may be processed, the Libra Association should inform it of the current status of the project so that the FDPIC could assess the extent to which its advisory competences and supervisory powers would apply.”

Evading Oversight?

Cointelegraph reports that the news about Facebook’s unresponsiveness comes amid continuing concerns on the choice to establish Libra in Geneva which was a major concern during Congressional hearing earlier this month.

During the hearing, Marcus insisted that the Libra Association was going to be headquartered in Switzerland “not to evade any responsibilities of oversight,” but because that's where other international financial groups are headquartered, like the Bank for International Settlements, making Geneva a conducive business place.

Members of the congress were concerned that Switzerland has long been viewed as hub for criminals and shady corporations. In his defense, Marcus said the FDPIC would handle privacy concerns, and that the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (FINMA) would regulate it financially. FINMA has previously indicated that it had been in contact with people from the Libra project.

Facebook's cryptocurrency project has already been met with skepticism from policymakers around the world. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell both said they have “serious concerns” about Libra related to money laundering, financial stability and regulation. Many of the senators who questioned Marcus also brought up data privacy concerns tied to Libra.

The FDPIC is not alone in wanting to know more about Facebook's plans for Libra and its potential risks. Numerous regulators worldwide and the finance chiefs of the G7 nations have called for further information to be released.

Should Libra provide more details to the public about the project to avoid the speculations? Let us know in the comments section.

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