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A Monumental Fight Over Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Is Coming (#GotBitcoin?)

Given how slowly Washington lawmakers have taken to devise a coherent, informed view of cryptocurrency, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee’s rapid leap to action last week over Facebook’s ambitious Libra project was remarkably fast. A Monumental Fight Over Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Is Coming (#GotBitcoin?)

A Monumental Fight Over Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Is Coming (#GotBitcoin?)

But let’s reflect not on the details of Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-Calif.) urgent requests that Facebook to cease work on Libra until after hearings are held or on how European lawmakers made similar appeals. The important takeaway from these legislators’ actions is that they are able to make such demands at all. since this is not the case with truly decentralized projects.

Unlike with bitcoin, representatives in Congress can directly identify and talk to the people in charge of the Libra project. They can subpoena them and, thus, pressure them. They might start with David Marcus, head of Facebook subsidiary Calibra, but, ultimately, it’s Facebook

A Monumental Fight Over Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Is Coming (#GotBitcoin?)

CEO Mark Zuckerberg who’ll give lawmakers the greatest leverage.

In this case, the buck stops with Zuck.

Now, imagine a Congressional leader calling for a halt in bitcoin development. Who exactly are they going to pressure to end an open-source project involving millions of globally spread mostly unidentifiable developers, miners and users?

This distinction – between one project with a single, identifiable authority figure and another whose governance is distributed and leaderless with a founder who has never revealed their identity – goes to the heart of a crypto community critique that the social media giant’s initiative is not censorship resistant.

When there’s someone in charge, an interested party – a policymaker, a banker, a regulator, a shareholder – can lean on them to make changes. And when the blockchain consensus model is based on a club-like permissioned membership, a coordinated effort to alter, or censor, the ledger is always possible. And if the ledger or its software can be altered by this pressure, the Libra platform can’t unconditionally promise to support open, unfettered access for users and a permissionless innovation environment for developers.

Let’s be clear: Libra’s designers have thought deeply about how to protect their project from Facebook itself, both in a real sense and that of public perception. In its commitment to decentralization, the team has put the code under an open-source license, handed the network’s governance authority to a separate Swiss-based foundation, brought in 27 external partners to work alongside Facebook as independent, permissioned nodes in the network, and verbally committed to transition to a permissionless model over time. There is a structure and roadmap in place for Libra to grow and survive regardless of its genesis as a Facebook project.

All that’s fine. But we’re still at the genesis phase, one that is and will for some time hinge on the centrality of a particularly powerful company.

The culture problem

At the risk of stating the obvious, Marcus and his team are paid by Facebook. Follow the money, as they say. But also, follow the code.

The Libra protocol’s all-important source code is now open-sourced, but it was conceived and gestated inside Facebook. So, whether the project managers and programmers resist or not, the culture of that organization will inherently feed into Libra’s design priorities.

The elephant in the room is that a drumbeat of recent news has revealed Facebook’s corporate culture to be profoundly toxic. The company’s model of surveillance capitalism has turned users into pawns in a global game of data manipulation, cultivated echo chambers of narrow-mindedness, done irreparable harm to the worthy cause of journalism, and deeply undermined our democracy.

This legacy is the unavoidable reason why people, including lawmakers, are alarmed that Facebook might be on the verge of creating a new international model for money and payments. Rightly or wrongly, there’s a fox-in-the-henhouse optic here that’s unhelpful.

Wharton Professor Kevin Werbach argued in the New York Times this week that Facebook’s Libra is a bold effort to win back public trust by leveraging the accountability ingrained in blockchain technology. But at the project’s genesis phase, with no choice but to trust Facebook’s early input, that legacy of prior mistrust could easily become a huge barrier to its progress.

We Should Support Libra, Not Facebook

Notwithstanding all the above, I actually want Libra to succeed. (Note: I also want Facebook to die. That’s not a contradiction; those two outcomes can and should be separate. In fact, it’s the nub of the issue.)

The Libra team has set its sights on achieving financial inclusion for the 2 billion adults worldwide who don’t have bank accounts. It’s a noble goal, and they are going about in an intelligent way – from a truly international, cross-border, cross-currency perspective. Bring all those people into the international economy and the payoffs could be huge, for them and for the rest of us.

And let’s face it, bitcoin has dismally failed to live up to its advocates’ promises of a financial inclusion solution. Bitcoin’s and other cryptocurrencies’ impact on the $800 billion global remittances market is puny.

Sure, uptake could rise if the off-chain Lightning Network lives up to its promise to enable larger-scale transaction-processing, if stablecoin projects resolve bitcoin’s volatility problem, and if new encryption solutions can improve both security and user experience with crypto wallets. But these solutions will take time. We need to act now.

In the end, it’s not at all clear that global person-to-person payments are a viable use case for bitcoin, perhaps because too many HODLing speculators crowd all the spenders out. And, of course, no other payments-focused cryptocurrency has put a big enough dent in the remittance market.

So, perhaps the recipe for a global broadening in payments lies with a cross-border, low-volatility international stablecoin backed by a basket of leading fiat currencies and developed with the formidable programming and marketing resources of 28 tech and financial giants. Also, when you combine Facebook’s, Instagram’s and WhatsApp’s user count, the number of potential wallets runs to 4 billion. Global network effects. Instantly.

All other things being equal – that is, if we ignore, for now, the genesis problem of Libra inheriting Facebook’s toxic roots – one could also argue that a permissioned, corporate network is the best approach for the Libra blockchain in place of a fully open, permissionless chain such as bitcoin’s or ethereum’s. The heavy lifting needed for early global traction – the software development, the marketing effort and the public policy outreach – requires that significant corporate resources be deployed in a targeted, coordinated manner that’s hard for open-source blockchain communities to achieve. There are efficiency advantages to be had from centralization.

Over time, as the project grows, Libra hopes to expand the consortium. That could undermine the coordination efficiency, but in a classic centralization-versus-decentralization tradeoff, the addition of new members – more NGOs, some banks, a workers union perhaps, and some public pension funds – will achieve greater diversity and lower collusion capacity. It’s far from perfect but the timed transition brings things closer to censorship resistance at a time in the future when it will matter — if it they get there.

What This Means For Bitcoin And Crypto

As an aside, I also believe Libra’s success would be a positive for bitcoin – and the past week’s price action suggests that the market sees the same.

Here’s why: Currently the one value proposition that holds well for bitcoin is that it will be a more liquid, digitally up-to-date risk-hedging vehicle than gold when people need to preserve value in something immune from political and institutional risk. That argument could be enhanced if Libra succeeds in converting billions of people to digital payment wallets, because it will more broadly establish the power of blockchain-based digital money as the way of the future. At the same time, because of its genesis as a Facebook-initiated, permissioned system, Libra will not shake the perception of being prone to political – i.e. censorship – risks. For many, then, Bitcoin, aka digital gold, will become the obvious alternative.

The currency-basket-backed Libra token is, however, a real competitor to other reserve-backed crypto-tokens, such as USDC, issued by the CENTER coalition initially formed by Circle and Coinbase, GUSD, Gemini’s stablecoin, and PAX, from Paxos.

But we can imagine events working in the latter’s favor. Developing countries like India, for example, may become hostile to a new currency entering circulation that sucks demand away from their local currencies, but they would be more accepting of a digital dollar, given that the greenback already circulates in their economies. Users, also, might be happier holding tokens pegged to single sovereign currencies rather than in a hard-to-measure basket. And if concerns about centralized control undermines trust in Libra or limits innovation, the fact that these tokens are built on truly permissionless blockchains may make them more appealing (even if you still have to trust the reserve-holder to guarantee to the price stability.)

Whatever happens, the world of money flows is mind-blowingly huge. There are $6 trillion a day in foreign exchange transactions alone. That allows plenty of room for different models, different tastes, and different trust systems for coordinating digital value exchange.

Getting Our Priorities Straight

The bigger risk is not that Libra succeeds and enriches Mark Zuckerberg even more but that neither Libra nor one of its crypto competitors ever succeeds in breaking down the barriers to economic participation. Financial exclusion breeds poverty, which in turn breeds terrorism and war.

And if we assume that the technology, if it isn’t yet ready, will ultimately get there, then the biggest threat to that is from a policy mistake.

The subtext of both Waters’ statements and those of European lawmakers was that this private exchange system can’t be allowed to replace national currencies. Thats’ not what Libra intends, but the perception that it is undermining nation states’ sovereignty over money could stoke fears and lead to a ban on Libra. And if that happens, it sets an ugly precedent for or all other competing ideas, whether it’s USDC, GUSD, PAX or DAI or something else.

The projects capacity to foster financial inclusion could also be hurt by the Financial Action Task Force’s, or FATF, embrace of a new rule for exchanging cryptocurrency. If ratified by enough countries that could curtail the free flow of cryptocurrency among addresses that haven’t been through a bank-like “know your customer” process. In other words, it could pose a real barrier to Libra’s and everyone else’s dream of financial inclusion for the “unbanked.”

The bottom line: the Libra team has its work cut out, and we all have a lot riding on it. The project’s representatives must face the reality that, for now at least, the buck still stops with Zuck, and that regulators will use that against them.

We should all wish them success in trying to convince policymakers that an open-system to global financial transactions is important. (It’s encouraging that the Bank of England is taking an open-minded view, proposing that tech companies like Libra be allowed to access funds directly from central banks.)

But, by the same token, we must be vigilant against corporate power that could easily convert this important project into something more sinister. Facebook’s own history is a reminder of the risks we face.

I wish it were a different company running with this ball right now. But since it’s not, the need for all of us to take a direct interest in this project is even greater.

We must demand that our representatives provide clear-headed, informed oversight that holds corporations like this to account and curtails their monopolizing powers. But we should also expect smart, open-minded regulation that encourages companies to compete and innovate in an open system that creates opportunities for everyone on this planet. A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over

Updated: 6-27-2019

Buried in Facebook’s Libra White Paper, a Digital Identity Bombshell

The Takeaway

Facebook’s Libra white paper includes a brief but potentially seismic nod to digital identity standards.

With 2 billion users worldwide, Facebook may be able to succeed where others have failed in jump-starting a globally accepted digital ID.

Some identity experts say this is even more important than the cryptocurrency, but others question how much control Libra would give users and find its approach overbearing.

Buried in Facebook’s Libra white paper are two short sentences hinting that the project’s ambitions go even further than bringing billions of people into the global financial system.

More than launching a price-stable cryptocurrency for the masses, Libra could be aiming to change the way people trust each other on the internet.

At the top of page nine, in a section describing the consortium that will govern the Libra coin, the white paper 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.”

That’s all the paper has to say on the topic of identity, perhaps explaining why the brief mention of such a foundational issue for 21st-century commerce escaped widespread notice despite all the hype over the document itself.

But to some observers, the line dropped like a bomb.

Dave Birch, director of Consult Hyperion and the author of books on digital identity and bitcoin, flagged these lines as “the most interesting” in the paper.

Smoothing pathways on the internet using identity is a bigger deal to many people than a putative cryptocurrency, Birch argued, adding:

“There are no throwaway remarks in a Facebook white paper that has taken a year to put together. It’s in there for a reason.

[Facebook] are actually going to try and fix the identity problem.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said this week that the company had nothing to add about identity beyond what’s in the white paper.

Who Are You?

It’s a problem almost as old as the internet itself. As the classic “New Yorker” cartoon put it, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

In such an environment, businesses need to guard against fraud, but the copious amounts of personal data consumers must share to prove they are who they say they are leaves them vulnerable to identity theft and spying.

Fixing this problem means finding a way to have the sort of credentials an individual holds in their physical wallet realized in a verifiable digital version which can be trusted across the internet. And for many technologists who have thought long and hard about identity, the solution must be “self-sovereign,” or controlled by the individual.

Birch, who has long seen the potential of social networks as natural springboards for managing digital identity, described a scenario where a user’s “I am over 18” credential (rather than their exact birthdate) is needed to log into a dating site.

This could be accessed through Libra’s cryptocurrency wallet Calibra via one of its partners, Mastercard, for example, with its two-factor authentication process. Then a cryptographic credential is sent back to Calibra containing no personally identifiable information but stating this person is over 18, which can then be presented to the dating site at log in.

While others have proposed similar arrangements (sometimes involving blockchains), none had the reach of Facebook, with its 2.38 billion users worldwide.

If Libra were “to drift in the direction of self-sovereign solutions, Facebook’s endorsement of that approach might make more of an impact on the market than, say, uPort or Evernym might have done,” Birch said, referring to two such blockchain ID startups.

And despite its reputation as the ultimate Peeping Tom, Facebook has hinted at such aspirations before. In February, while Libra was still under wraps, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was investigating blockchain’s potential to allow internet users to log in to various services via one set of credentials without relying on third parties.

Standard Setting

Stepping back, technologists have been trying to address the challenge of identity for more than a decade by establishing open standards. In the same way that URLs, for example, open webpages anywhere on the internet, standards are also needed to ensure digital attributes about an individual can be universally issued and verified.

The OAuth standard, for example, is what let you log into websites through a third-party service like Facebook without sharing a password. More recently, such work under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has included things like Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) and the verifiable credentials standard, both meant to enable self-sovereign digital identity.

Some veterans of this field were taken aback by the suggestion that the Libra Association (a group of 30 or so companies, expected to reach 100 or more) would develop an open identity standard.

“That’s very world domination-ish of them,” said Kaliya Young, a co-author of “A Comprehensive Guide to Self Sovereign Identity” and co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop. “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.”

Young pointed out that “unilaterally declaring” an open standard belies the process of going through standards development with an open community, adding that all the people working on identity standards are connected to one another in reaching a common goal.

“That 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, just like the web is too big to be owned,” she said.

(Indeed, Facebook was previously said to have rebuffed an invitation to participate in the DID project alongside Microsoft.)

Phil Windley, chair at the Sovrin Foundation, which contributed the codebase to the Hyperledger Indy blockchain ID project, acknowledged the risk of parsing two sentences in Libra’s paper too finely. But he made the point that “decentralized” and “portable” (Facebook’s words) are not exactly the same as self-sovereign.

“Decentralized” could simply mean a user’s identity data – their attributes and identifiers – are spread among nodes that are run on the Libra blockchain, said Windley. This doesn’t imply the user necessarily has control of them. Likewise, “portable” just means credentials can be moved from one place to another but doesn’t necessarily mean you get a say in how they are used.

Windley told CoinDesk:

“People often use ‘decentralized’ as an unalloyed gilt and just assume that it means everything is going to be great. That could be what they are doing here – just using ‘decentralized’ as a synonym for ‘awesome.’”

Joining the dots
That said, Windley was respectful about the scale of Libra’s vision, which he suspects is much bigger than dealing with know-your-customer (KYC) checks and the regulation around building a global permissioned currency platform.

He pointed to the paper’s authors which include many firms like Mastercard or Kiva, folks who have thought very hard about digital identity. (Neither company would comment on Libra’s approach to digital identity).

“I suspect given Libra’s goal of financial inclusion, they are probably thinking about it bigger than just authentication and authorization for a few narrow purposes,” said Windley. “I think there is enough there (e.g. the smart contract language) to believe a stablecoin is just one thing that they envisage using Libra for.”

In the absence of any detail on what might comprise a decentralized identity standard from Libra’s perspective, some dots can be joined by examining the recent work of George Danezis and his co-founders at Chainspace, a startup acquired by Facebook in May.

A paper introducing a “selective disclosure credential scheme” called Coconut explains how a system of smart contracts (computer programs that run on top of blockchains) could “issue user credentials depending on the state of the blockchain, or attest some claim about a user operating through the contract – such as their identity, attributes, or even the balance of their wallet.”

The Coconut protocol goes on to describe how credentials can be jointly issued in a decentralized manner by a group of “mutually distrusting authorities.” These credentials cannot be forged by users or a group of corrupt authorities, and are also “re-randomized” prior to being presented for verification to further protect user privacy. Unlike some computationally-hungry proving schemes, this is done in a matter of a few milliseconds making it highly scalable.

Returning to the question of standards, Birch said W3C, DIDs and verified credentials might be the right option for Libra, but whether it’s that or something else, basically whatever they choose would end up being a standard, he said, concluding:

“And you could argue, 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.” A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over, A Monumental Fight Over, A Monumental Fight Over,A Monumental Fight Over, A Monumental Fight Over, A Monumental Fight Over,

Facebook’s Libra Could Give Dollar, Banks Some Welcome Competition

By creating a de facto central bank, Libra could succeed where other cryptocurrencies fall short.

The payment system remains one of the last true monopolies of a modern economy. If you want to use the local currency, you pretty much have to go through your central bank and banking system with all its rules, restrictions and fees.

Financial technology startups and cryptocurrencies have all sought to bust up that monopoly. With its new digital currency, Libra, Facebook Inc. may actually succeed by doing what none others have: by creating a de facto central bank to issue it.

Granted, a stateless central bank run by Facebook will alarm some people. But before jumping to conclusions, it’s worth examining Libra’s potential to do good, especially for the world’s poor.

Most cryptocurrencies, like the currencies they aspire to replace, are “fiat” money: They aren’t backed by anything tangible, only the confidence you can later exchange it for something of value. Untethered to any anchor, they are inherently susceptible to speculative booms and busts.

“Many cryptocurrencies are two assets blended into one,” Christian Catalini, head economist at Calibra, the Facebook subsidiary overseeing the project, said in an interview. “One is an investment vehicle that is a bet on the future success of an ecosystem; the other a medium of exchange that at scale should allow people to do all sorts of useful things.”

Mr. Catalini, who is on leave from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, learned from six years of studying digital currencies that these two roles aren’t really compatible. “When you are trying to use it as a medium of exchange, any fluctuation in value adds uncertainty to that transaction,” he said. For a “merchant transacting across the globe, if I don’t know the value at the other end, or a week from now, that makes it a less valuable mechanism.”

By contrast, when a user purchases Libra, their funds will be invested in government bills and other safe assets denominated in a basket of established currencies. They can always convert Libra back into the underlying currencies. Such baskets are inherently stable: The Special Drawing Right, issued by the International Monetary Fund and denominated in a basket of underlying currencies, fluctuates less than developed currencies like the euro and far less than emerging currencies like Turkey’s lira, never mind bitcoin.

While the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank can increase or shrink the supply of dollars and euros to meet monetary policy goals, the supply of Libra is to be entirely determined by users’ demand. It’s modeled on currency boards like the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which issues Hong Kong dollars fully backed by U.S. dollars. That model appealed to Facebook because it doesn’t conduct monetary policy, Mr. Catalini said. Since every Libra will be backed, there can’t be a run on the bank: “It’s not like the last person holding Libra will be unable to convert it.”

Roberto Rigobon, a macroeconomist at MIT who advised Facebook on Libra, said in an email: “Most currency boards have failed, why not this one? … Not a single currency crisis happens without a government financing a deficit, dealing with unsustainable policies, or having a banking system that goes into crisis. Here we have none of these issues.”

Well, maybe not at first. Early central banks didn’t conduct monetary policy either: They facilitated payments by issuing notes convertible on demand to gold. Yet, under the gold standard people could still issue IOUs that weren’t directly backed by gold. Thus, total IOUs and currency could exceed the gold available to back them, and a sudden rush by investors to convert either to gold could bring borrowing to a standstill, triggering a crisis. Similarly, individuals and companies could issue Libra-denominated IOUs that aren’t backed by hard assets, eventually creating the conditions to precipitate a crisis.

For Libra to get that big, of course, it will have to gain widespread acceptance. This doesn’t look easy. People usually abandon their local currency because of hyperinflation or capital controls and, Venezuela notwithstanding, both are nowadays rare. In most advanced countries payments are quick, secure and reliable thanks to widespread use of credit and debit cards.

But existing payment systems can nonetheless be costly, especially for the poor. Emerging market expatriates pay fees averaging 6.9% to send money home, according to the World Bank. Americans without bank accounts can pay $10 to $30 in fees each month to use a prepaid card, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Credit cards aren’t free either: the merchant pays 2% to 4% of the purchase amount in fees to the three banks involved (the customer’s, merchant’s, and payment processor’s), says Aaron Klein of the Brookings Institution. Mr. Klein says these fees finance rewards to affluent card holders, but merchants must charge everyone more to cover them. Bitcoin involves expensive computing power and costly transaction fees.

Could an alternative be cheaper? Mr. Klein points to China where consumers and merchants link their bank accounts to “digital wallets” maintained by WeChat Pay and Alipay, incurring costs of just 0.1%. Whether Libra can match such low costs remains to be seen. That will depend heavily on what users pay to convert currency to Libra and back. And given Facebook’s reputation for exploiting personal information, disseminating toxic content and quashing competition, critics wonder whether it should be trusted to run a digital currency.

On the other hand, the very ubiquity of Facebook may be what enables Libra to become a true alternative to national currencies. Sometimes, it takes a monopolist to beat a monopolist.

Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency: How It Stacks Up To Bitcoin And PayPal

The social-media giant’s new payment system is a lot closer to traditional web-commerce systems than you might think.

Facebook Inc. last week unveiled plans to launch Libra, a payment system it describes as a new “global currency.” It’s based on blockchain, the same technology that powers bitcoin, and is backed by real assets and pegged to stable government securities. Over two dozen corporate partners are on board, including financial companies MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc., PayPal Holdings

Inc. and Coinbase. Partners contribute a membership fee of $10 million each. Facebook’s goal is to line up a total of 100 corporate partners and $1 billion in assets.

In many ways, Libra appears to operate more like existing web-payment systems, such as PayPal, than bitcoin. Here’s how Facebook’s new system compares:


Facebook’s base of 2.4 billion active users gives Libra immense global reach. But the social-media company will need to assure its users that Libra’s convenience doesn’t come with the cost of compromising privacy.

Libra’s blockchain will be fundamentally different from bitcoin’s. With bitcoin, the process of validating transactions is decentralized among all the participants of the system. Libra, on the other hand, will have a centralized governing body, the Libra Association, overseeing transactions and verifying them. Libra’s transaction history will be stored in one place, and some members within the association will be responsible for maintaining and verifying the digital ledger.

The association then distributes Libras through authorized sellers.

The Libra Association—an independent organization created by Facebook —mints the currency.

The authorized seller exchanges the currency with the Libra Association, which then burns, or destroys, the currency.

A consumer downloads a digital wallet from a new Facebook subsidiary called Calibra, then purchases Libras from an authorized seller’s site.

Spotify then exchanges the Libras that it received for dollars via a reseller.

The user uses Libras to make an online purchase, such as a subscription to Spotify, one of the corporate partners of the currency.


Bitcoin can be used as a payment system, but mostly appeals to a niche group of investors. For various reasons, the original cryptocurrency never took off as a payments network; only about 1% of bitcoin transactions are for payments, according to research firm Chainalysis. As currently constructed, bitcoin is most commonly used for trading. To traders, bitcoin is not about cash, it’s about profit. It’s a volatile but at times very profitable asset to own, along the lines of a hot tech stock or a parcel of Vegas real estate.

While a bitcoin miner might sell a portion of earnings to recoup expenses on the shipping container full on overheating hard drives, most users are inclined to sit on their cache. In late 2017, the cryptocurrency spiked close to $20,000, only to fall a year later to the mid-$3,000 range. Such volatility makes bitcoin owners unwilling to use the cryptocurrency for impulsive purchases.


PayPal is one of the founding members of Facebook’s Libra launch. On paper, there’s a lot of overlap between the two digital-payment systems, with one big difference: Libra uses a cryptocurrency, PayPal doesn’t. The financial-technology company functions similarly to an online bank, albeit one that appeals to people of all financial levels. One can set up a PayPal account without a credit card or bank account.

PayPal provides added security by centralizing a user’s financial information. Instead of saving credit-card or bank-account numbers on various sites—any one of which can be compromised—users link their financial information through PayPal. In addition, receiving money requires only giving out an email address, not a bank-account number.

Unlike bitcoin, PayPal isn’t anonymous. The company is a licensed money transmitter and therefore it requires personally identifiable information, such as your name and phone number, when creating an account.

While a wide base of merchants accepts PayPal, it isn’t accepted everywhere. Amazon, which has its competing Amazon Pay app, doesn’t accept PayPal. A Monumental Fight Over, A Monumental Fight Over



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