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Facebook is targeting 1.7 billion people around the world who are classed as ‘unbanked or underserved’ by financial institutions. [ Photo / France24.com ]

A senior Facebook executive who sits on the Libra board is optimistic” the digital currency will launch “sooner rather than later”, despite sustained criticism from global regulators.

The social media group said Libra will dramatically cross border payments costs, and spur other innovations it hopes will upend global financial services when it unveiled plans for the cryptocurrency last June.

Facebook is targeting 1.7 billion people around the world who are classed as ‘unbanked or underserved’ by financial institutions.

Concerns over Libra

However, policymakers – from the US Federal Reserve to the Bank of England – have raised concerns ranging from money-laundering, tax evasion and data protection issues.

The tech giant’s David Marcus said: “I’m an optimist. A year ago, we weren’t having the kind of conversations that I think will lead to a regulatory regime that will mean projects like ours and others will see the light of day.”

Marcus, the chief executive of the tech giants blockchain arm Calibra, was speaking at the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.

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The wall of criticism levelled against the project has seen a quarter of founding members of the Libra group walk away. Vodafone, Mastercard, Visa, Paypal and eBay have all left the project, to be replaced by less high-profile firms.   

In Davos, Marcus shared a platform with Neha Narula, the director, digital currency initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Narula said: “It’s interesting to look back at what has happened with our internet today. There are a few very large companies that collect massive amounts of data on people. And essentially surveil them as they walk around their homes and cities. We need to make sure that something like this does not happen with financial transactions.” 

Private currency

LearnBonds news editor Roger Baird said: “Issuing a new currency used to be the sort of thing only kings could do. Now it has become a billionaire’s game. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is building a private currency and network to carry it.

“But unchecked the risks to global financial system are great. As MIT’s Narula points out regulators can’t afford to sleep at the wheel as this project takes shape.”

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