Can Project Libra Meaningfully Tip the Scale?

By Carl DiClementi on ALTCOIN MAGAZINE

Since Mark Zuckerberg mentioned cryptocurrencies in his personal challenge for 2018, exactly how Facebook could leverage blockchain technology has been a topic of much speculation.

News sources such as the WSJ claim that the effort, known internally as Project Libra, will be a stable-coin, or a cryptocurrency that is “pegged” (near-equal in value) to a fiat currency such as the US Dollar. With this coin, Facebook will launch a marketplace and the expansion of currency transfer between users of their various apps.

With billions of monthly active users, this could be the catalyst that brings cryptocurrency mainstream. At least that’s what they’re aiming for. But amid all of Facebook’s privacy woes, I dare suggest a slightly more good-willed way to dip their toes in the blockchain waters. One that attempts to regain the public’s trust before asking them to put their hard-earned money on your platform.

Remember in 2011 when your “profile” was rebranded as your “timeline”? This is because the timeline of a person’s life better represents their identity, as opposed to the snapshot that a profile provides. And that’s just it, Facebook timelines are purposefully designed to represent our identities.

Facebook’s tight control of our identities poses a rather simple answer to buying back some good-will. By relinquishing some control back to the users, their claims of commitment to privacy may be taken seriously. Facebook is perfectly positioned to be known as the company that made Self-Sovereign Identities a reality.

It seems this would even be aligned with Facebook’s corporate mantra, as Zuck mentions in his post linked above:

The first four words of Facebook’s mission have always been, “Give people the power”.

Such a transition is not unheard of. Years ago, we never could have imagined Microsoft breaking down the walls of their garden, but today we see them openly adopting Linux and are deeply involved in the Self-Sovereign Identity movement.

With emerging standards like Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) and Verifiable Credentials, Facebook could lead the charge on how we leverage our identities in both the digital and physical world. You see, via these emerging standards, you are able to minimize the amount of information that you expose to any given entity.

Attempting to sign up for a new website? Via your Decentralized Identifier, you could authenticate with your Identity without exposing any of your interests, contact information, or even your name.

Heading to the bar? Via a Verifiable Credential, you can disclose to the bouncer that you are “over 21” and nothing else.

Applying for a loan from a handful of banks to compare their offered rates? Via a Verifiable Credential, you can complete the KYC process once and share it with any number of parties.

There’s incredible promise here, but where to start? These identities and credentials have to exist somewhere, and one of the biggest struggles with implementing systems of this scale is the rollout (see: Affordable Care Act). Getting a vast percentage of any population setup and interacting with a platform is hard. Fortunately, with 68% of Americans having an account, and 74% of which use it daily Facebook has a bit of a head start.

Just today news broke that millions of users from Facebook-owned Instagram had their private data exposed publicly. Wouldn’t it be important to regain these users’ trust before asking them to allow you to handle their money?

More than half of Facebook’s users are uncomfortable with the fact that the site stores their list of traits and interests. Without action, it’s unlikely that these numbers will change for the better any time soon.

Image Credit Adoption, usage, and sentiment statistics from Pew Research.