Regulators from Australia, Canada, UK hit Facebook with Libra privacy concerns

Facebook's history of mishandling data has come back to haunt it as the privacy and regulatory community team up to probe the social media giant on Libra.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Facebook has been called upon by a group of data protection and privacy regulators to provide further information on its Libra project, asking how the social media giant plans to ensure it can secure and protect personal information.

Calling the joint action an important step in a global regulatory movement to hold online companies accountable for their handling of personal information, Australia's Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said privacy must be a key component of any significant digital initiative such as Libra.

Libra is Facebook's cryptocurrency play, slated for launch in 2020.

It is expected Libra will integrate with the company's apps and services and go head-to-head with the likes of Bitcoin, but lawmakers globally aren't as excited by the idea as the social media giant is.

The joint statement dated August 6 is signed off by Falk, Canada's Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien and Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission Rohit Chopra, Information Commissioner for the United Kingdom Elizabeth Denham, the EU's European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, Albania's Information and Data Protection Commissioner Besnik Dervishi, and Burkina Faso's President of the Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties Marguerite Ouedraogo Bonane.

"We are joining together to express our shared concerns about the privacy risks posed by the Libra digital currency and infrastructure," the joint statement says. "Other authorities and democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns about this initiative.

"These risks are not limited to financial privacy, since the involvement of Facebook Inc., and its expansive categories of data collection on hundreds of millions of users, raises additional concerns."

See also: Facebook data privacy scandal: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

The group has asked the company to answer a slew of questions, such as: "How can global data protection and privacy enforcement authorities be confident that the Libra Network has robust measures to protect the personal information of network users?"

Specifically, the group wants clear information about how personal information would be used, what level of thought consent has been given, what the third-party data-sharing guidelines are, and if the user has the ability to be completely deleted from the platform.

With Facebook's large number of data-related faux pas still front of mind, the group said that while it is supportive of the economic and social benefits new technologies can bring, it must not be at the expense of people's privacy.

"Many of us in the regulatory community have had to address previous episodes where Facebook's handling of people's information has not met the expectations of regulators, or their own users," the group wrote. 

"Because of this, we are sharing our expectations of the Libra Association, Facebook's subsidiary Calibra, and any future Libra digital wallet provider in protecting the personal information it will handle."

The group said they were "surprised and concerned" given the current plans for a rapid implementation of Libra and Calibra, that further details regarding privacy have not yet been made available, saying Facebook and Calibra have failed to specifically address the information handling practices that would be in place to secure and protect personal information.

Facebook is yet to reply to the group's questions.

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