Facebook’s potential Bitcoin rival Libra faces the same centralization vs. decentralization debate that plagued cryptocurrencies before it. Michael Casey, the Senior Advisor for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, explores the competing interests in a new op-ed.
The tension between law enforcement and cryptocurrency developers is hinged upon privacy. While regulators are demanding more user-identifying information, crypto developers are hoping to create something akin to electronic cash: allowing users more autonomy, privacy, and self-custody. Facebook’s Libra is caught in the cross-hairs of this debate.
“In many respects, this contradiction is not a function of Facebook’s involvement in this project or Libra’s structure per se but of competing public interests,” explains Michael Casey. “We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t simultaneously insist on absolute privacy and the power to intervene in transactions to catch bad guys laundering money.”
Casey’s article, which you can read in full here, discusses the economic impact of sharing our private information. His hope is that we can develop better tools for curbing crime—without relying on people’s personal infomation.