Facebook’s 2019 Libra White Paper: Digital ID a requirement for financial inclusion

A 2019 white paper by Facebook on its cryptocurrency, Libra, mentions its ambitions to make digital identity a prerequisite to be able to use its payment system.

Digital identities have entered the mainstream discussion amid COVID-19, with digital rights advocates sounding the alarm over their potential to unify all aspects of one’s life and leave citizens’ eligibility to fundamental services at the mercy of private tech firms with contentious aims and even worse privacy records.

While today’s climate of fear has many denying such notions, under the illusion that vaccine passports are merely a spontaneous and temporary response to COVID-19, the white paper is yet another reminder of how major corporations and organizations have long been working on centralized ID systems years and tech companies like Facebook seek to be the arbiters in a digital society.

The brief description buried within Facebook’s Libra report, published in 2019, alludes to the company’s desire of a digital identity being a requirement in order for one to make financial transactions, opening up all sorts of threats to freedom of speech and human rights violations.

“An additional goal of the association is to develop and promote an open identity standard,” the white paper states.

“We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.”

With one’s digital wallet connected to a centralized identity system, led by a social network with almost half of the world’s population on board, those who dare speak out of turn against certain issues could be barred from making or receiving payments.

Facebook joins ID2020

ID2020, a public-private consortium partnered with the United Nations to provide a legal [digital] identity for all people by 2030, saw Facebook join its alliance in August 2021.

“We’re proud to join the alliance to help shape the future of digital identification,” Facebook announced.

According to ID2020, Facebook joined its Technical Advisory Committee “to learn and build on standards for digital ID that are secure and privacy-centric.”

The alliance makes no secret of its ambitions to link all fundamental facets of people’s lives into a centralized digital identity system.

“From e-passports to digital wallets, online banking to social media accounts, these new forms of digital ID allow us to travel, conduct business, access financial and health records, stay connected, and much more,” ID2020 states on its website.

Partnership with Mastercard

Among Libra’s partners is Mastercard, which is also heavily involved in merging digital ID solutions to matters like payment and vaccination. In fact, Mastercard has been trialling a biometric identity platform in West Africa whereby digital vaccination records connect with an identity system that is linked to Mastercard’s click-to-pay system.