Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg began the rollout of his company’s Libra cryptocurrency project on Tuesday, CNBC reports. Within hours, House Financial Services Committee chair Maxine Waters responded by calling for the company to pause its project to give Congress and regulators an opportunity to react.
Waters convened a committee hearing at the request of ranking Republican member Patrick McHenry. For his part, McHenry acknowledged that cryptocurrency technology offers a great deal of promise, but suggested that there’s reason to be concerned about Facebook's secret project:
“While there is great promise for this new technology in fostering financial inclusion and faster payments, particularly in the developing world, we know there are many open questions as to the scope and scale of the project and how it will conform to our global financial regulatory framework. We need to go beyond the rumors and speculations and provide a forum to assess this project and its potential unprecedented impact on the financial system.”
Other elected officials were even more direct in their skepticism of Facebook’s secret cryptocurrency project. Senator Mark Warner noted Facebook’s well-publicized failure to maintain user data privacy and suggested that the company would face a “big uphill effort” to convince Americans to trust it with their financial information.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherrod Brown took direct aim at Facebook’s controversial use of user data:
“Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight.”
Waters issued a statement in which she recited a laundry list of Facebook controversies, including the company's questionable use of billions of people’s private data, its failure to prevent bad actors from using fake accounts to deceive Americans, and the fact that it remains under an FTC consent order related to its deceptive practices and failure to secure customers’ private data. She called for Facebook to agree to a pause:
“Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action. Facebook executives should also come before the Committee to provide testimony on these issues.”