Facebook's Libra whitepaper hints at plans for universal digital ID

27 Jun, 2019
by David Robb
Facebook's Libra whitepaper hints at plans for universal digital ID

After Facebook's Libra whitepaper was released around a week ago, many questions were raised about the potential dangers of the new crypto project. Some observers have pointed out that the document hints at the creation of a new universal digital identity, which could be cause for concern.

CoinDesk reports that two sentences in the recently-released Libra whitepaper have been described as "the most interesting", due to their suggestions of Facebook's broader plans for the project. The important part reads: "An additional goal of the association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition".

This universal digital identity is something that many companies and developers have been working on for some time, providing a solution to a number of important authentication issues. However, as the question of privacy grows more relevant, it may not be ideal for a company as monolithic as Facebook to provide this technology.

Kaliya Young, an author who has works on digital identity issues, described the move as "very world domination-ish...Some of us have been working on that problem for a really long time. You already have a set of open standards for verifiable credentials that are basically done and working...work is being led by a community of people deeply committed to there being no one company owning it in the end, because identity is too big to be owned".

Meanwhile, others have pointed out that the social media giant's influence might not necessarily be a bad thing. According to Dave Birch, a Bitcoin and digital identity expert, cryptography is important in digital identification, and Facebook could help progress in this area: "Facebook’s endorsement of that approach might make more of an impact on the market than, say, uPort or Evernym might have done...is that necessarily a bad thing? I mean what happens if they come up with a good standard for identity and attributes and so on and then other people can use it, e.g. banks would be one obvious example."

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