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EU competition regulators quiz Facebook over Libra coin plans

European Commission regulators may be preparing the way for an investigation into competition concerns surrounding Facebook’s digital currency Libra.

The commission’s antitrust investigators have begun questioning members of the Libra Association, which includes Mastercard, Visa and Paypal, about their use of consumer data, Reuters and Bloomberg have reported.

The inquiries, submitted through a questionnaire, could precede a formal antitrust investigation into the project, which has already attracted the attention of regulators in the US and the UK.

In a letter signed by seven of the world’s most powerful privacy regulators, Facebook and its 28 partners were urged earlier this month to disclose their efforts to protect users’ data.

Critics of the project have also expressed concerns about money laundering, Facebook’s suitability as a processor of financial data, and the impact Libra could have on the stability of fiat currencies, especially those in the developing world.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has warned that Libra could have a systemic impact on the global economy: “You have to be on all the time, you can’t have teething issues, you can’t have people losing money out of their wallets. The standards are in a different zip code, to use the American term, to the standards in other technologies.’’

In an apparent rebuke of the Silicon Valley mantra, “move fast and break things”, Carney added: “This is not learn on the job stuff. It’s got to be rock solid right from the start, or it’s not going to start.’’

In recent years the European Commission has launched a number of antitrust investigations into a US tech companies’ plans, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn and Apple’s acquisition of Shazam. All were ultimately approved.