Facebook and Libra are Preparing to Shakeup the E-commerce World
Libra would allow even the unbanked to shop online.
Chances are, if you’re a merchant and you’re selling goods via Facebook, you’ve heard about Libra. Libra is one of the hottest topics around the globe right now, with everyone from politicians to the general public discussing its incredible potential.
If all goes as planned and Facebook manages to get Libra off the ground, businesses and merchants will have an incredibly powerful tool at their disposal to help increase sales and boost their bottom line.
Let’s meet Libra.
For the uninitiated, let’s get into Libra and explore exactly what it is and how it can help entrepreneurs supercharge their Facebook stores. Libra is going to be a digital currency that’s backed by financial assets and U.S. Treasury securities, meaning that it won’t be volatile like other digital currencies.
This is a crucial aspect for merchants, as nobody wants to accept two Libra for their goods and services, only to find out minutes later that the customer underpaid due to volatility. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital currencies, Libra will have stability in its price and not suffer huge fluctuations.
Second of all, Libra lets anyone become their own bank, even if they don’t have a bank account. Imagine a world where, as a business, you can accept digital payments from 2.41 billion Facebook users. Libra empowers people to become their own banks and make their own financial choices. This new-found financial freedom will allow people, including the unbanked, to gain access to a world of lightning-fast payments that cost a fraction of what traditional payments do.
There are a few concerns about Libra.
Like any new technology, there are a few concerns about privacy and compliance. Yes, Facebook was involved in a huge data scandal with Cambridge Analytica, but that's history. Facebook’s blockchain lead, David Marcus, has testified that Libra will respect privacy laws, and he has gone into great detail about how data will be handled.
Blockchain technology, the technology that powers Bitcoin and, one day, Libra, is pseudonymous, meaning a user’s identity is never exposed to the public. That being said, third party developers that create wallet services on the Libra blockchain will be forced to implement know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) procedures in order to adhere with the law.
You go through the same process when signing up for a bank account or when opening an account with a financial advisor. It’s a common practice. Libra will have no access to this data, and the third-party wallet providers will encrypt the data securely.
Are today’s AML tools enough to stop stores from becoming a hub for money laundering?
The question on everyone's mind is, will these KYC and AML procedures be enough to protect my reputation? The short answer is yes. It’s exactly the same process that banks currently use, so Libra will be just as secure and free from illegally obtained money as accepting a Visa or MasterCard transaction. If anything, Libra will be more secure and help businesses ensure that all transactions are legitimate. There is a range of enterprise solutions available that Libra can make use of in order to implement advanced KYC and AML procedures.
Related: Libra: It is a Fine Balance
I recently had the pleasure to work as a consultant for Oracle Financial Services. I was a contributing author to their ebook, which will be published at the end of the year, on money laundering. I was impressed with what the company is doing in this space.
Oracle Open Graph Technology is an example of one powerful solution for digital currency flows, like Libra, that cannot be secured from machine learning using traditional AML technology. Modern tools like graph-based technology which Oracle has innovated out of its lab could be the answer. There’s a huge demand for banks of all sizes to analyze financial data more effectively than AML rules-based tech will allow.
I sat down with Jason Somrak, CAMS, Chief Financial Crime Consultant to Oracle, and he said, “graph analytics is the key technology that allows for effective monitoring of digital currencies. Not only does it allow investigators to visualize networks, but crypto-graphs can be easily augmented with datasets like the ones built by MIT to identify illicit transactions and the ultimate beneficial owners of wallets. Deep learning can then be applied to these super graphs to find all similar illicit patterns and identify segments of how groups of users are behaving in the currency.”
Allowing Libra to track the relationships between pseudonymous accounts and detect anomalies with queries and algorithms so that companies are able to take a proactive and preventative approach against money laundering is key. Keeping the Libra ecosystem free of tainted money and automatically blacklisting accounts that break the law will ensure that businesses have a path forward when dealing with bad actors or have to face questions from the government.
Here’s an Oracle Presentation running graph technology across the Bitcoin blockchain that gives a visual representation of how financial crime is combated with technology.
Can Facebook really bring the unbanked to online stores?
Facebook is used by more than 2.41 billion people around the globe, including people from some of the poorest nations on the planet and those who don’t have access to a bank account. To the unbanked, Facebook is giving them a chance to join the digital world and access a plethora of new digital goods and services, all enabled by Libra.
Initially, Libra will reach out to the unbanked and help them create accounts so that they can begin enjoying the world of online shopping. This will be a gamechanger in that Libra is actively helping to bring 1.7 billion unbanked people into the Facebook marketplace. This is an incredible amount of potential new customers that e-commerce businesses can begin serving immediately.
Alternatives are available.
Facebook stores are already incredibly popular, and they have served billions of customers since they launched. But there are still a few merchants and consumers who have issues with Facebook and Libra over past data issues. For those who are still afraid, there are a number of alternative solutions available.
Decentralized marketplaces work similarly to the Facebook stores, except that no entity has any power over your store. To learn more, I sat down with the CMO of one such startup called Particl who said, “we allow businesses and merchants to create their own decentralized stores and share these stores with customers. Particl generates no revenue from vendors and stores no data about each store -- transactions are masked using state-of-the-art encryption technologies that make transaction data untraceable and unlinkable on the blockchain.”
The Particl Marketplace affords its users 100 percent privacy thanks to its distribution network. Plus, the Particl network is incredibly cheap to use. Fees are miniature, allowing merchants to save a fortune on listing fees and sales commission. For now, Particl only allows merchants to accept its native token, PART, but the privacy benefits are well worth it.
Finally, when it comes to blockchain technology, Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKP) enable transactions to be validated without revealing the identity of the users who are involved in the transaction. Like anonymous systems, ZKP validates blockchain transactions without revealing the details. I reached out to the CEO and Founder of QEDIT, Jonathan Rouach, for comment, and he said, “ZKP is critical to the digital infrastructure being built now for the next 50 years. QEDIT is playing a core role in making ZKP scalable, standardized, and accessible to the infrastructure we rely on for all things digital, from identity management to distributed digital assets, supply chain and more."
People are becoming more and more concerned about their data being shared with software companies, yet they want to use the software for free. As a result, users opt-in to share data. However, these days with all the advances in technology, there are new frontiers ahead where data is openly shared in an encrypted way so that all may share in the benefits of big data.
Libra and Facebook are a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to expand their global reach and customer base. While it may end up costing around $50,000 to set up your business wallet with Libra, but the potential and power it offers merchants is unparalleled. If Libra can handle its AML, KYC and privacy in a meaningful way, we could see the Libra network flourish as the unbanked embrace this new technology.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor