6 things we're still wondering about Libra, Facebook's new cryptocurrency coming in 2020

  • Facebook on Tuesday announced the launch of its forthcoming cryptocurrency,Libra, and subsidiary financial service, Calibra.
  • The service isn’t launching until 2020, and there are still a few unanswered questions.
  • Facebook hasn’t clarified how old you have to be to use Libra, whether it will integrate with Facebook’s existing Messenger payments, and how it got the name “Libra.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Tuesday, Facebook announced the 2020 launch of a new cryptocurrency: Libra.

Facebook teamed up with a slew of multinational companies to launch the currency, which will by monitored by an independent non-profit called the Libra Association when it launches in 2020. Facebook also created a new subsidiary, an app called Calibra, that will let uses send and receive the currency.

Lawmakers have already expressed alarm over Libra: Bruno le Marie, France’s finance minister, rejected the potential for Libra to turn into its own “sovereign currency.” And late Tuesday, Democratic congresswoman and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters called for Facebook to pause its plans until regulators can look into the new cryptocurrency.

With Libra still a year out from launch, there are plenty of major questions being raised about the new service. For instance, we don’t know yet how Facebook plans to comply with each country’s rules for governing financial transactions; we also don’t know if Facebook and its other Libra partners will offer any kind of protections for consumers.

Apart from some of the larger financial questions about Libra, here are six other things we’re still wondering about the new cryptocurrency:


How involved will Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook be in Libra?

The Libra Association will oversee Libra Blockchain and manage Libra’s reserve to assure the stability of the cyptocurrency’s value.

The organisation is composed of founding companies of the cryptocurrency, each of which contributed about $US10 million. According to the Financial Times, members include PayPal, Vodafone, Lyft, Uber, Mastercard, Visa, and Spotify – the association does not include Amazon, Google, Apple, or any banks.

The Libra Association is meant to be an independent non-profit, and Zuckerberg and Facebook won’t have any more voting power in the organisation than any other company. However, Calibra’s “Customer Commitment” outlines the following:

“Facebook teams played a key role in the creation of the Libra Association and the Libra Blockchain, working with the other Founding Members. While final decision-making authority rests with the association, Facebook is expected to maintain a leadership role through 2019 …
Once the Libra network launches, Facebook, and its affiliates, will have the same commitments, privileges, and financial obligations as any other Founding Member. As one member among many, Facebook’s role in governance of the association will be equal to that of its peers.”

Facebook is similarly involved with Libra itself. Facebook may be excluding itself from Libra’s marketing – the Libra website doesn’t mention Facebook, and it has different branding than Facebook or its other subsidiaries – but its engineers are contributing significantly to the cryptocurrency’s open-source codebase.


How do we know Facebook won’t have access to information you share with Calibra?

Facebook is emphasising the security of Libra, which is built on a sort of blockchain, as well as Calibra’s status as a subsidiary, which should assure that it is regulated and that financial data is kept separate from Facebook.

Facebook’s press release specifies that, with the exception of “limited cases,” Calibra “will not share account information or financial data with Facebook or any third party without customer consent.” Examples of limited cases when data could be shared include suspected criminal activity or fraud.

Despite these attempts to reassure potential Libra users, privacy issues are still on folks’ minds, given privacy breeches at Facebook over the past two years, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal.


How will Libra roll out to grocers and convenience stores so people can convert real money into cryptocurrency?

Amy Sussman/AP Images for ALDI

We can expect to see real-world cash exchanges for Libra, beyond the Calibra digital wallet. This could look like going to a grocery store or convenience store and adding to your Libra balance there, like topping off a pay-as-you-go phone plan.

But, how exactly this exchange will go down, whether there will be any limits on cash exchanges, and what types of stores and chains specifically will be willing to partner with Libra, are yet to be announced.


Will there be any age minimum to sign up?

Facebook users can only use person-to-person payments in Messenger if they are at least 18 years old. There’s no word yet on whether Libra will institute a user age minimum, although Libra’s website does say users will need a government-issued ID to sign up.


How will Calibra be different from Facebook’s existing payments service, or will they be integrated?

Facebook

Calibra is the Facebook subsidiary that can manage Libra transactions. It will release a digital wallet on Messenger, WhatsApp, and as a standalone app.

Facebook already has a payments function that it launched within Messenger in 2015. Like Venmo, the service allows users to connect PayPal or a debit card to their account and then send or request money from friends.

Bloomberg reports that Facebook’s “payments and other service” revenue comprised under 2% of 2018 total sales.

It’s not clear whether Facebook plans to integrate the Calibra digital wallet and existing payments system, given that they both will work over Messenger.


Why is it called Libra?

What about “Libra” makes it a good name for a new cryptocurrency? Facebook hasn’t said, so we turned to astrology to gain some insight.

“Libra is the partnership sign, so they’re all about the people in their lives and trying to keep their relationships balanced,” New York-based astrologer Alice Bell told Business Insider.

Bell explained that as the ruler of the seventh house, Libra oversees close relationships – in business, romance, and friendship – and likes to keep the peace in those relationships. Bell also points to the symbol for Libra: two scales. In considering relationships and balance, the exchange of money between two people can factor in.

Ultimately, Bell thinks Libra is a fitting sign for a cryptocurrency.

“Taurus is the sign associated with money and finances, so if I was going to do something financial, I’d think of that first,” Bell said. “But since (payment) is between two people, I think Libra would make the most sense out of all of them.”

If Facebook really wanted to be on-brand, it would launch its cryptocurrency during Libra season in 2020, which is from September 23 to October 23.

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