'Facebook once again faced intense questioning from US lawmakers over the future launch of its cryptocurrency project Libra, in a combative hearing that highlighted deep skepticism over the tech firm’s possibly entering the banking world following a slew of privacy scandals.
Members of the US House financial services committee grilled the Facebook executive David Marcus for more than five hours on Wednesday, asking him how the company plans to protect user data, challenging its purported goals of bringing banking services to underserved populations, and demanding more accountability to regulatory bodies.
The hearing came after senators questioned Facebook on Tuesday about similar matters. Though some members praised the company for taking steps to innovate, the tone of the hearing was overwhelmingly hostile, and it was clear Facebook does not yet have a clear path to Libra’s launch.
“I don’t think you should launch Libra at all,” the Democratic representative Carolyn Maloney told Marcus, arguing that the creation of a currency was a core government function that should be left to democratically accountable institutions.
Representative Brad Sherman of California said that if successful, Libra could be “one of the biggest things this committee will deal with this decade” and questioned why Marcus appeared in Congress in place of the chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, given the potential magnitude of the project.
Congress questions Libra’s headquarters location
Lawmakers zeroed in on privacy and other concerns surrounding the project on Wednesday, questioning why Facebook would base the body overseeing the cryptocurrency in Switzerland, out of reach of US legislators.
Facebook repeatedly stressed it would work with regulators to ensure users’ privacy, but as of Tuesday, the Swiss regulatory body responsible for its regulation had not heard from the company, it said.
Other lawmakers challenged the characterizing of the Libra Association, a collective of dozens of companies that contributed millions of dollars to Libra ahead of its launch, as a not-for-profit organization.
Multiple members asked how Facebook and the companies in the association, which include Uber, Lyft, MasterCard and Paypal, would profit from the currency. The New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Libra constitutes “a currency controlled by an undemocratically selected coalition of largely massive corporations”.'
Read more: US lawmakers hammer Facebook executive over Libra's threat to privacy
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