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Loot boxes in games are gambling and should be banned for kids, say UK MPs

By Natasha Lomas

UK MPs have called for the government to regulate the games industry’s use of loot boxes under current gambling legislation — urging a blanket ban on the sale of loot boxes to players who are children.

Kids should instead be able to earn in-game credits to unlock look boxes, MPs have suggested in a recommendation that won’t be music to the games industry’s ears.

Loot boxes refer to virtual items in games that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance. The MPs argue the mechanic should be considered games of chance played for money’s worth and regulated by the UK Gambling Act.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) parliamentary committee makes the recommendations in a report published today following an enquiry into immersive and addictive technologies that saw it take evidence from a number of tech companies including Fortnite maker Epic Games; Facebook-owned Instagram; and Snapchap.

The committee said it found representatives from the games industry to be “wilfully obtuse” in answering questions about typical patterns of play — data the report emphasizes is necessary for proper understanding of how players are engaging with games — as well as calling out some games and social media company representatives for demonstrating “a lack of honesty and transparency”, leading it to question what the companies have to hide.

“The potential harms outlined in this report can be considered the direct result of the way in which the ‘attention economy’ is driven by the objective of maximising user engagement,” the committee writes in a summary of the report which it says explores “how data-rich immersive technologies are driven by business models that combine people’s data with design practices to have powerful psychological effects”.

As well as trying to pry information about of games companies, MPs also took evidence from gamers during the course of the enquiry.

In one instance the committee heard that a gamer spent up to £1,000 per year on loot box mechanics in Electronic Arts’s Fifa series.

A member of the public also reported that their adult son had built up debts of more than £50,000 through spending on microtransactions in online game RuneScape. The maker of that game, Jagex, told the committee that players “can potentially spend up to £1,000 a week or £5,000 a month”.

In addition to calling for gambling law to be applied to the industry’s lucrative loot box mechanic, the report calls on games makers to face up to responsibilities to protect players from potential harms, saying research into possible negative psychosocial harms has been hampered by the industry’s unwillingness to share play data.

“Data on how long people play games for is essential to understand what normal and healthy — and, conversely, abnormal and potentially unhealthy — engagement with gaming looks like. Games companies collect this information for their own marketing and design purposes; however, in evidence to us, representatives from the games industry were wilfully obtuse in answering our questions about typical patterns of play,” it writes.

“Although the vast majority of people who play games find it a positive experience, the minority who struggle to maintain control over how much they are playing experience serious consequences for them and their loved ones. At present, the games industry has not sufficiently accepted responsibility for either understanding or preventing this harm. Moreover, both policy-making and potential industry interventions are being hindered by a lack of robust evidence, which in part stems from companies’ unwillingness to share data about patterns of play.”

The report recommends the government require games makers share aggregated player data with researchers, with the committee calling for a new regulator to oversee a levy on the industry to fund independent academic research — including into ‘Gaming disorder‘, an addictive condition formally designated by the World Health Organization — and to ensure that “the relevant data is made available from the industry to enable it to be effective”.

“Social media platforms and online games makers are locked in a relentless battle to capture ever more of people’s attention, time and money. Their business models are built on this, but it’s time for them to be more responsible in dealing with the harms these technologies can cause for some users,” said DCMS committee chair, Damian Collins, in a statement.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the Government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.

“Gaming contributes to a global industry that generates billions in revenue. It is unacceptable that some companies with millions of users and children among them should be so ill-equipped to talk to us about the potential harm of their products. Gaming disorder based on excessive and addictive game play has been recognised by the World Health Organisation. It’s time for games companies to use the huge quantities of data they gather about their players, to do more to proactively identify vulnerable gamers.”

The committee wants independent research to inform the development of a behavioural design code of practice for online services. “This should be developed within an adequate timeframe to inform the future online harms regulator’s work around ‘designed addiction’ and ‘excessive screen time’,” it writes, citing the government’s plan for a new Internet regulator for online harms.

MPs are also concerned about the lack of robust age verification to keep children off age-restricted platforms and games.

The report identifies inconsistencies in the games industry’s ‘age-ratings’ stemming from self-regulation around the distribution of games (such as online games not being subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system, meaning voluntary ratings are used instead).

“Games companies should not assume that the responsibility to enforce age-ratings applies exclusively to the main delivery platforms: All companies and platforms that are making games available online should uphold the highest standards of enforcing age-ratings,” the committee writes on that.

“Both games companies and the social media platforms need to establish effective age verification tools. They currently do not exist on any of the major platforms which rely on self-certification from children and adults,” Collins adds.

During the enquiry it emerged that the UK government is working with tech companies including Snap to try to devise a centralized system for age verification for online platforms.

A section of the report on Effective Age Verification cites testimony from deputy information commissioner Steve Wood raising concerns about any move towards “wide-spread age verification [by] collecting hard identifiers from people, like scans of passports”.

Wood instead pointed the committee towards technological alternatives, such as age estimation, which he said uses “algorithms running behind the scenes using different types of data linked to the self-declaration of the age to work out whether this person is the age they say they are when they are on the platform”.

Snapchat’s Will Scougal also told the committee that its platform is able to monitor user signals to ensure users are the appropriate age — by tracking behavior and activity; location; and connections between users to flag a user as potentially underage. 

The report also makes a recommendation on deepfake content, with the committee saying that malicious creation and distribution of deepfake videos should be regarded as harmful content.

“The release of content like this could try to influence the outcome of elections and undermine people’s public reputation,” it warns. “Social media platforms should have clear policies in place for the removal of deepfakes. In the UK, the Government should include action against deepfakes as part of the duty of care social media companies should exercise in the interests of their users, as set out in the Online Harms White Paper.”

“Social media firms need to take action against known deepfake films, particularly when they have been designed to distort the appearance of people in an attempt to maliciously damage their public reputation, as was seen with the recent film of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi,” adds Collins.

Who gets to own your digital identity?

By David Riggs
Christoffer O. Hernæs Contributor
Christoffer O. Hernæs is chief digital officer of Sbanken, Norway's first digital-only bank and leading challenger bank.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” was stated in the legendary New York Times cartoon that captured the spirit of privacy and anonymity in the early days of the internet. Even though anonymity is still a hot topic and sought after in the online world, times have changed. With the rise of online banking, social media, e-commerce and peer-to-peer services, a verified digital identity is a crucial ingredient in making any digital platform succeed.

Banking is one of the areas where the ability to verify one’s identity in a secure and compliant manner is a prerequisite to access basic services. Looking at the unbanked population of the world today, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 billion people lack access to everyday banking services due to their inability to prove their identity through a valid birth certificate, passport, proof of residency through utility bill or some other means to fulfill traditional KYC procedures.

In addition to accessing digital banking, most of us also have verified our identity through a plethora of services like Google, Facebook, Blizzard and the list goes on, through various means of identity verification that make up an interlinked web of interdependencies, where one of your identities vouch for your eligibility to access another service. Two-factor authentication or biometric identification often rely on your mobile phone, and when you choose to log in with Facebook, you authorize Facebook to represent you online. While this is often convenient for easy and quick access to the latest mobile app you want to try out, you are paying a price by allowing Facebook to share and sell not only your data but also your digital identity.

However, your digital identity is more than your login credentials. This is merely the authentication that connects you with the digital you. Your digital identity consists of thousands of data points that make up a profile of who you are and your preferences. Today, your digital identity is scattered all over the internet, where Facebook owns our social identity, retailers own our shopping patterns, credit agencies hold our creditworthiness, Google knows what we have been curious of since the dawn of the internet and your bank owns your payment history. As a result, we are all analyzed in detail to predict our future behavior and monetize our digital identities.

A verified digital identity is a crucial ingredient in making any digital platform succeed.

Not only do we lack ownership of our own data, but our fragmented digital identities where various third parties own bits and pieces only gives part of the picture, and also proposes vulnerabilities for those third parties. As an example, fraudsters have started to take advantage of this in countries with no national identifier by creating synthetic digital identities by signing up digital services and applying for credit. Even though the initial credit application is rejected, a credit file is automatically created, thus creating a digital paper trail for a non-existing person. With approximately 10 million new consumer credit files generated in the U.S. each year, synthetic identities can be very difficult to detect. Over time, these synthetic identities gain access to credit, and bank losses due to synthetic fraud are estimated to amount for somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion each year.

In the wake of numerous exposures of how our data is exploited, with Cambridge Analytica as the most notable example, privacy becomes an increasing concern for the public, as well. Apple seeks to leverage this attention to digital privacy by taking a radically different approach than their counterparts with “sign in with Apple,” where privacy is the main selling point for using their service instead of Google and Facebook.

Blockchain is often proposed as the silver bullet to solve all our digital identity needs, something that has caught the attention of Mark Zuckerberg that addresses what he sees as the pros and cons of a decentralized approach to digital identity. As Facebook represents a quintessential man in the middle, losing ownership of all our identities is most likely the biggest con of a decentralized approach to digital identity in the eyes of Zuckerberg.

With the upcoming launch of Facebook’s cryptocurrency, Libra, the company has the potential to further strengthen its position as a leading provider of a global digital identity solution. Often overlooked with most of the attention directed toward the cryptocurrency, many point to the decentralized identity associated with Libra as the most interesting aspect of Facebook’s plans. A passage hidden away near the bottom of the documentation states: “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.”

There is too much at stake when it comes to our digital identities to remain unvigilant.

A consolidated and verified digital identity would be beneficial to both users and providers of digital services. However, allowing Facebook or The Libra Association to be the custodian of our consolidated digital identity is a sinister trail for the future of both privacy and democracy.

On the other hand, the Holy Grail of decentralized identity, often named a self-sovereign identity, has its weaknesses, namely ourselves as human beings. We tend to be forgetful, and sometimes downright unreliable. Letting users keep the only key to access their digital identities is a recipe for disaster the moment someone forgets their password or pass away. There is nobody to call and no Forgot Password button to reclaim the ownership of the identity.

It is difficult to envision a future of digital identity without relying on some kind of identity custodian that maintains a verified connection between your physical and digital self, ensures that no data is used without consent, monitors malicious behavior and provides user support in case of a lost key. This is far from an easy solution and should be provided by a regulated entity. One thing is for sure, such a solution relies on trust and must give the end user full ownership of their own data, similar to data portability under GDPR.

There is too much at stake when it comes to our digital identities to remain unvigilant of what is going on, as shown numerous times through both data breaches where our personal data is compromised and manipulation of public opinion through social media.

No matter which technology or appointed custodian we deploy to solve this, our identities should belong to we the people rather than one corporation or consortium of corporations that seek to exploit our data for profit.

The dreaded 10x, or, how to handle exceptional employees

By Jon Evans

The “10x engineer.” Shudder. Wince. I have rarely seen my Twitter feed unite against an idea so loudly, or in such harmony.

I refer of course to the thread last month by Accel India’s Shekhar Kirani, explaining “If you have a 10x engineer as part of your first few engineers, you increase the odds of your startup success significantly” and then going on to address, in his opinion, “How do you spot a 10x engineer?”

The resulting scorn was tsunami-like. The very concept of a 10x engineer seems so… five years ago. Since then, the Valley has largely come to the collective conclusion that 1) there is no such thing as a 10x engineer 2) even if there were, you wouldn’t want to hire one, because they play so poorly with others.

The anti-10x squad raises many important and valid — frankly, obvious and inarguable — points. Go down that Twitter thread and you’ll find that 10x engineers are identified as: people who eschew meetings, work alone, rarely look at documentation, don’t write much themselves, are poor mentors, and view process, meetings, or training as reasons to abandon their employer. In short, they are unbelievably terrible team members.

Is software a field like the arts, or sports, in which exceptional performers can exist? Sure. Absolutely. Software is Extremistan, not Mediocristan, as Nassim Taleb puts it.

Apple leads corporate American solar energy usage

By Jonathan Shieber

Apple led the way in solar usage as technology companies step up their development of renewable energy projects to offset their carbon emissions.

That’s the word from the Solar Energy Industry Association in its latest tally of leading corporate solar energy installers across the U.S.

Last year, Apple installed 400 megawatts of solar capacity to lead all companies in the U.S.

“Top companies are increasingly investing in clean, reliable solar energy because it makes economic sense,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), in a statement. “[And] corporate solar investments will become even more significant as businesses use solar to fight climate change, create jobs and boost local economies.”

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Four of the top 10 corporate solar users in the U.S. were tech companies. Amazon was No. 2 on the Solar Energy Industry Association’s list of companies tapping solar energy to power their businesses. The data center company Switch and search giant Google (a subsidiary of Alphabet) came in as the fifth and sixth companies.

“Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon,” said Kara Hurst, director of Sustainability, Amazon, in a statement. “Major investments in renewable energy are a critical step toward addressing our carbon footprint globally. We will continue to invest in these projects and look forward to additional investments this year and beyond.”

The price for solar continues to come down, which is increasing the adoption — and scale — of solar installations in the U.S.

According to the SEIA, the biggest jump in solar installations have happened in the last three years. In all, 7 gigawatts of solar capacity has been installed at commercial locations, which is enough to power 1.4 million homes.

Of course, these numbers still need to increase even more dramatically for the corporate world to show that it’s serious about addressing climate change. While it’s important to acknowledge the successes of companies that are taking strides to incorporate more renewable energy into their operations, the goal for these massive industrial and technology giants (and really the goal for every institution) should be to get to as close to full decarbonization as possible.

The world has 10 years to wean itself off its current emissions-heavy consumption habits. Increasing solar usage is a step in the right direction, but it’s only a step.

Visa funds $40M for no-password crypto vault Anchorage

By Josh Constine

Visa and Andreessen Horowitz are betting even bigger on cryptocurrency, funding a big round for fellow Facebook Libra Association member Anchorage’s omnimetric blockchain security system. Instead of using passwords that can be stolen, Anchorage requires cryptocurrency withdrawals to be approved by a client’s other employees. Then the company uses both human and AI review of biometrics and more to validate transactions before they’re executed, while offering end-to-end insurance coverage.

This new-age approach to cryptocurrency protection has attracted a $40 million Series B for Anchorage led by Blockchain Capital and joined by Visa and Andreessen Horowitz. The round adds to Anchorage’s $17 million Series A that Andreessen led just six months ago, demonstrating extraordinary momentum for the security startup.

As a custodian, our work is focused on building financial plumbing that other companies depend on for their operations to run smoothly. In this regard we have always looked at Visa as a model” Anchorage co-founder and president Diogo Mónica tells me.

“Visa was ‘fintech’ before the term existed, and has always been on the vanguard of financial infrastructure. Visa’s investment in Anchorage is helpful not only to our company but to our industry, as a validation of the entire ecosystem and a recognition that crypto will play a key role in the future of global finance.”

Anchorage Crypto 1

Cold-storage, where assets are held in computers not connected to the Internet, has become a popular method of securing Bitcoin, Ether, and other tokens. But the problem is that this can prevent owners from participating in governance of certain cryptocurrency where votes are based on their holdings, or earning dividends. Anchorage tells me it’s purposefully designed to permit this kind of participation, helping clients to get the most out of their assets like capturing returns from staking and inflation, or joining in on-chain governance.

As 3 of the 28 founding members of the Libra Association that will govern the new Facebook-incubated cryptocurrency; Anchorage, Visa, and Andreessen Horowitz will be responsible for ensuring the stablecoin stays secure. While Facebook is building its own custodial wallet called Calibra for users, other Association members and companies hoping to dive into the ecosystem will need ways to protect their Libra stockpiles.

“Libra is exactly the kind of asset that Anchorage was created to hold” Mónica wrote the day Libra was revealed. “Our custody solution enables online participation with offline assets, so that asset-holders don’t face a trade-off between security and usability.” The company believes that custodians shouldn’t dictate what coins their clients hold, so it’s working to support all types of digital assets. Anchorage tells me that will include support for securing Libra in the future.

Libra Association Founding Partners

You’ve probably already used technology secured by Anchorage’s founders, who engineered Docker’s containers that are used by Microsoft, and Square’s first encrypted card reader. Mónica was at Square when he met his future Anchorage co-founder Nathan McCauley who’d been working on anti-reverse engineering tech for the U.S. military. When a company that had lost the password to a $1 million cryptocurrency account asked for their help with security, they recognized a recognized the need for a more idiot-proof take on asset protection.

“Anchorage applies the best of modern security engineering for a more advanced approach: we generate and store private keys in secure hardware so they are never exposed at any point in their life cycle, and we eliminate human operations that expose assets to risk” Mónica says. The startup competes with other crypto custody firms like Bitgo, Ledger, Coinbase, and Gemini.

Anchorage CryptocurrencyLast time we spoke, Anchorage was cagey about what I could reveal regarding how its transaction validation system worked. With the new funding, it’s feeling a little more secure about its market position and was willing to share more.

Anchorage ditches usernames, passwords, email addresses, and phone numbers completely. That way a hacker can’t just dump your coins into their account by stealing your private key or SIM-porting your number to their phone. Instead, clients whitelist devices held by their employees, who use the Anchorage app to submit transactions. You’d propose selling $10 million worth of Bitcoin or transferring it to someone else as payment, and a minimum of two-thirds of your designated co-workers would need to concur to form a quorum that approves the transfer.

But first, Anchorage would’s artificial intelligence and human staff would check for any suspicious signals that might indicate a hack in progress. It uses behavioral analysis (do you act like a real human and similar to how you have before), biometric signals (do you look like you), and network signals (is your device what and where it should be) to confirm the transaction is legitimate. The same process goes down if you try to add a new whitelisted device or change who has permission to do what.

The challenge will be scaling security to an ever-broadening range of digital assets, each with their own blockchain quirks and complex smart contracts. Even if Anchorage keeps coins safely in custody, those variables could expose assets to risk while in transit. Now with deeper pockets and the Visa vote of confidence, Anchorage could solve those problems as clients line up.

While most blockchain attention has focused on the cryptocurrencies themselves and the exchanges where you can buy and sell them, a second order of critical infrastructure startups is emerging. Companies like Anchorage could make Bitcoin, Ether, Libra, and more not just objects of speculation or the domain of experts, but safely functioning elements of the new world economy.

UnitedMasters releases iPhone app for DIY cross-service music distribution

By Darrell Etherington

Alphabet-backed UnitedMasters, the music label distribution startup and record label alternative that offers artists 100% ownership of everything they create, launched its iPhone app today.

The iPhone app works like the service they used to offer, only via the web, giving artists the chance to upload their own tracks (from iCloud, Dropbox or directly from text messages), then distribute them to a full range of streaming music platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more. In exchange for this distribution, as well as analytics on how your music is performing, UnitedMasters takes a 10% share on revenue generated by tracks it distributes, but artists retain full ownership of the content they create.

UnitedMasters also works with brand partners, including Bose, the NBA and AT&T, to place tracks in marketing use across the brand’s properties and distributed content. Music creators are paid out via PayPal once they connect their accounts, and they also can tie-in their social accounts for connecting their overall online presence with their music.

UnitedMasters

Using the app, artists can create entire releases by uploading not only music tracks but also high-quality cover art, and by entering information like whether any producers participated in the music creation, and whether the tracks contain any explicit lyrics. You also can specify an exact desired release date, and UnitedMasters will do its best to distribute across services on that day, pending content approvals.

UnitedMasters was founded by former Interscope Records president Steve Stoute, and also has funding from Andreessen Horwitz and 20th Century Fox. It’s aiming to serve a new generation of artists who are disenfranchised by the traditional label model, but are seeking distribution through the services where listeners actually spend their time, and using the iPhone to manage the entire process definitely fits with serving that customer base.

How startups can make influencer marketing work on a budget

By Arman Tabatabai
Ishveen Anand Contributor
Ishveen is the CEO+Founder of OpenSponsorship.com, a marketplace she founded after her experiences being a successful sports agent, to bring transparency and affordability to the sports marketing industry, namely between brands and athletes.

Influencer Marketing has ballooned into a $25 billion industry, yet many marketing managers are left confused by this, because for them, it’s really not delivering the results to justify the hype.

Here’s the thing. Influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy such as Facebook or Adwords advertising. Each company needs to take a closer look at what influencer marketing can achieve, where it falls down, and how you can do a better job with this latest form of marketing that delivers, on average, $6.50 of value for every $1 spent.

The analysis below relies on clients and case studies from our experience at OpenSponsorship.com (my company) which is the largest marketplace connecting brands with over 5500 professional athletes for marketing campaigns.

With over 3500 deals to date across clients as big as Vitamin Shoppe and Anheuser Busch, established players like Jabra and Project Repat, and new startups like Brazyn and Gutzy, we have seen a lot go wrong (who knew you could disable comments on a post!) and a lot go right (an unknown skiier’s $100 Instagram, posted right before the Winter Olympics, going viral after he won the Silver)!!

Thanks to our in-house data experts, integrations with IBM Watson, robust ROI tracking tools and 10 years+ of experience combining the learnings of sports sponsorship with influencer marketing, we have gained extensive insights into campaign strategies.

We will share our learnings about what criteria to consider when choosing the best influencer to work with, figuring out how much to pay the influencer, what rights to ask for in the deal, what terms and conditions are reasonable and how to track ROI for the deal.

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Table of Contents


Who is the right influencer? 

At OpenSponsorship, we match brands with athletes for marketing campaigns, with a view to further expand into other areas of media and entertainment such as music artists, comedians, actors. Even within the athlete world, there is the concept of micro-influencers such as yogis, triathletes, marathon runners, all the way to macro-influencers such as NFL Quarterbacks, starting NBA point guards and everything in between.

Our 3 recommendations for picking the right influencers are:

Toronto Raptors founder brings Bird scooters to Canada as a platform partner

By Darrell Etherington

Bird’s somewhat weird but also very clever global expansion model is to let others handle it, and one of those others is bringing their service online this month. Bird Canada, which is a wholly Canadian-owned company entirely distinct from Bird, will begin offering on-demand electric scooter rental service in Alberta this month, with plans to offer its services across more Canadian communities on a gradual rollout schedule after that.

Bird Canada will be operating its service under the Platform plan that the original Bird announced earlier this year, which will see it acquire its scooters from the U.S. Bird at cost, and gain access to the Santa Monica-based startup’s tools, software and technology to operate the service, in exchange for a 20 percent cut of ride revenue.

The new Canadian e-scooter company is founded by Canadian serial entrepreneur and Toronto Raptors founder John Bitove (he led the bid that brought the NBA expansion team to Toronto in 1993), who will act as the company’s Chairman. Bird Canada’s day-to-day operations will be overseen by CEO Steward Lyons, who previously worked with Bitove on SiriusXM’s Canadian business and the startup national wireless provider Mobilicity which the two entrepreneurs founded together.

For its part, the Canadian entity will operate the fleet, including recharging the electric, battery-powered scooters and ensuring they’re in good working order. Local operators are also the ones who’ll need to work with city and any other relevant governing officials, which is a big reason why this probably seemed like the wisest or at least most expedient path to getting revenue from markets outside the U.S. for Bird.

Bird is also being selective about how it rolls out these franchise-like Platform partnerships, by picking only one partner per region and also by avoiding any such partnerships in markets where it does have an interest in eventually expanding itself.

Both Lyons and Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden provided quotes around this news that emphasize how scooter charing can offer sustainable, affordable transportation that helps alleviate traffic, and Lyons specifically said that Alberta is “leading the way in Canada.” The regulatory environment around scooters is at best murky in most Canadian cities, and local governing authorities are scrambling to figure out what the formal rules should be ahead of the scooter explosion traveling north of the U.S. border in a bigger way.

Bird Canada is likely hoping to set the tone for that conversation and be involved in encouraging more communities beyond those in Alberta to open its arms to on-demand rental businesses, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of reception these receive, and what approach Bird Canada takes to managing their fleet in the country’s harsher winter conditions.

What is the Libra Association going to do, really?

By Romain Dillet

When Facebook unveiled Libra a few days ago, the company also announced the Libra Association, a not-for-profit that will oversee all things Libra. Facebook wants to make sure that everyone is aware that Libra was created by Facebook but isn’t controlled by Facebook.

And yet, given Facebook’s reputation, it seems useful to evaluate the project and the company’s promises — should we trust Facebook?

Regulation

Before going into technical details, let’s start with Facebook’s promises when it comes to privacy. Facebook launched a subsidiary called Calibra that is responsible for its cryptocurrency projects. It’s a separate company with a separate team.

In addition to contributing to the development of the project at the protocol level, Calibra will release a wallet and build an integration with WhatsApp and Messenger. In other words, you’ll be able to tap on a button to launch a Calibra menu. You’ll then be able to send and receive money through the Calibra wallet.

While a clear separation is always an encouraging sign, it could be seen as a way to deal more effectively with regulation more than anything else.

Calibra was built for regulation purposes

If you compare Calibra with other peer-to-peer payment services, PayPal is regulated as a money transfer service in the U.S. Venmo, a PayPal subsidiary, relies on PayPal’s license to operate. Square Cash also complies with a long list of money transmission regulation.

In the U.S. in particular, each state has its own set of regulation when it comes to financial services. And Calibra also has to deal with cryptocurrency regulation, which is another source of troubles. That’s why it took a while to access Coinbase from all 50 states.

Creating a subsidiary makes this process easier for Facebook. The subsidiary has to comply with cryptocurrency and financial regulation, but not Facebook at large.

This isn’t the first time Facebook is creating a subsidiary to handle peer-to-peer payments. Facebook created a subsidiary called Facebook Payments Inc. It has money transmitter licenses in all 50 states.

That’s why it’s misleading to say Calibra was created to “ensure separation between social and financial data and to build and operate services on its behalf on top of the Libra network.” Calibra was built for regulation purposes.

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