Facebook Still Can't Admit That Launching Libra During An International Privacy Scandal Is Idiotic

from the well-duh dept

One of the less charming aspects of Facebook is its executives’ total inability to read the room. For example, any sensible company under Facebook’s recent level of scrutiny would take the contrite and humble approach — pausing most operations to insist they’d seen the error of their ways, pummeling home the claim that they were pausing expansion ambitions to ensure they were leaving no stone unturned to fix the problem and company culture (even if the company in question never genuinely intended such a thing).

Instead Facebook, one of the wealthiest companies to ever exist, engaged in repeated PR gaffes and face plants, most of which were their own making. Like thinking it was a good idea to launch a dating app in the middle of a privacy firestorm. Or thinking it was a good idea to push a “privacy protecting” VPN on users that wound up being spyware. Or, you know, thinking it was a good idea for it to push hard into the cryptocurrency space while facing numerous international investigations for being a dumpster fire when it comes to protecting its users’ privacy and security.

To that end, a paywalled report at The Information this week hinted that Facebook was finally backing away from its Libra cryptocurrency plan after numerous partners had wisely exited the (likely) doomed venture. Last year Facebook had already been slowly backing away from its original vision of Libra as a fully open, decentralized network, putting it in stark contrast with those excited about the decentralized nature of blockchain-based networks.

But the company and the Libra Association (or what’s left of it) subsequently told Ars Technica that nothing has changed:

“The Libra Association has not altered its goal of building a regulatory-compliant global payment network, and the basic design principles that support that goal have not been changed nor has the potential for this network to foster future innovation.”

Government regulators around the world balked at the dumb idea from the start. Stripe, Paypal, eBay, Visa, Mastercard, and Mercado Pago all quickly sensed the project was a dumpster fire and quickly backed away. Most of the companies that actually know something about international payment systems want nothing to do with this project. But this being Facebook, it apparently knows better, and will probably keep beating this dead horse for another year or so before it admits the project is a turd, in large part because nobody trusts the company to get it right after Cambridge Analytica.

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Comments on “Facebook Still Can't Admit That Launching Libra During An International Privacy Scandal Is Idiotic”

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10 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

will probably keep beating this dead horse for another year or so before it admits the project is a turd, in large part because nobody trusts the company to get it right after Cambridge Analytica.

This is a weak story. What makes the project a "dumpster fire"? What’s the correlation between knowing about international payment systems and wanting nothing to do with it? (And are we sure there’s more than a desire to maintain the profitable status quo?)

More importantly, what level of trust would be placed in the network sponsors/operators? A common theme of cryptocurrency is that one does not need to trust a central authority. How does Libra compare? Are we talking about "trust" in any technical sense, or is this solely about public perception?

F1 says:

Re: Re:

It’s a bit too telling that members began leaving the association as soon as government-types began asking questions about regulatory compliance. The original description of Libra is that it’s a platform where Facebook and other members of the association are providing the technology, but all the regulatory mumbo jumbo was someone else’s problem. It’s the same business model as Uber. You centralize control in your hands, you scoop up all the profits, but all the risks, all the potential losses, you shift that onto someone else. It’s the most foul form of captalism. You pillage society for your own benefit while also expecting to be immune from any consequences by the rules of that society (regulatory compliance). Libra was never about empowering those that don’t have bank accounts or that live in countries where banking is too expensive. It was always about cornering a market, making as much profit as possible, in the easiest way possible. Thankfully, real and actual financial systems like the US dollar follow the law in order to protect all people. Libra as pitched to investors was said to be except from any and all financial laws because it’s the merchants that transact on the network that will be responsible for everything. An interesting idea but it’s not one that has an analog in the real world. And if courts don’t agree with this novel interpretation, well, then what you’ve done is, in fact, criminal.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Weak story. . .

I’m not too sure I’d be so quick to label this story as ‘weak’. The questions you raise are good, and have been answered both here on TD and elsewhere. But the bottom line for most folks, whether they be FB users or FB haters, is that the Cambridge Analytica debacle proved that FB has no moral scruples whatsoever. And I mean, proved beyond any possible doubt.

The inescapable problem for FB is that they have a history of taking advantage of people’s personal data. Stating things like "we will never mistreat your data" has less than no meaning to them. All that this Libra venture meant to them was yet another avenue to access private, personal data, and deeply financial data at that. Even if they simply worked to arbitrage the money flow (shady at best, but done every day by the big boys…), they’d still be untrustworthy to the maximum degree possible.

Submitting to any degree of government oversight would expose this kind of behavior, and would tend to reduce profits from triple or quadruple digits down to double digits…. and Mark can’t have that, now can he?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Weak story. . .

The inescapable problem for FB is that they have a history of taking advantage of people’s personal data.

That’s an inescapable perception of Facebook that may taint Libra by association. It’s not an inescapable problem of Libra itself. The system could be designed so that Facebook does not have this data. They say it will be, and while I wouldn’t necessarily trust them on that, it could be verified given enough technical information about the system.

If the questions have already been answered, that’s why we have links. This story doesn’t have that answer the questions. The link to the "libra" category, for example, returns the very story we’re looking at and nothing else; "facebook" returns too many stories having nothing to do with "libra"; "currency" has nothing relevant; "cryptocurrency" has one other story that doesn’t describe how privacy will work (it says an untrustworthy FB subsidiary will implement a wallet, but doesn’t say it would be the only wallet provider).

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