Facebook on Tuesday announced its plan to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra next year. The company has partnered with 28 companies for a digital wallet service called Calibra, which will be connected to WhatsApp and Messenger. It will also have an app of its own.
The Geneva-based Libra Association will govern the cryptocurrency. Calibra’s digital wallets will allow users to save and send Libras as well as spend them to buy goods and services.
David Marcus, who is heading the project for Facebook, said the name Libra was inspired by the Roman astrological symbol for justice and the French word for freedom, Reuters reported. “Freedom, justice and money, which is exactly what we are trying to do here,” he added.
Mastercard, Visa, Spotify Technology, PayPal, eBay, Uber and Vodafone are among the partners in Libra Association, which hopes to have 100 members by the time of its launch in the first half of 2020. Each member needs to invest at least $10 million to join the consortium. The companies, including Facebook, get one vote each.
In a document describing its plan, Facebook said its goal was to foster more access to “better, cheaper, and open financial services”, The Guardian reported. Libra will be linked to a variety of global assets to keep volatility in check.
Facebook, which in the recent past has been involved in data privacy scandals, said Calibra would have “strong protections” in place to keep money and information safe. “We will be using all the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use, and we’ll have automated systems that will proactively monitor activity to detect and prevent fraudulent behaviour,” the company said. “We will also offer dedicated live support to help if you lose your phone or your password – and if someone fraudulently gains access to your account and you lose some Libra as a result, we will offer you a refund.”
Bitcoin, launched in 2009, is the best-known cryptocurrency. These digital currencies are controlled by blockchain technology.