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US Senate Banking Committee to hold hearing on Facebook’s Libra

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The US Senate Banking Committee plans to hold a hearing to discuss Libra, Facebook’s newly-announced cryptocurrency project, on July 16th, Reuters reports.

The hearing will also examine any issues of data privacy stemming from the project, according to the report. Witnesses at the hearing haven’t yet been announced, Reuters reports.

News of this hearing comes a day after Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the ranking member of the committee, expressed his concerns over Libra and what it could mean for the power Facebook holds over its users.

“Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight. I’m calling on our financial watchdogs to scrutinize this closely to ensure users are protected,” Brown said in a statement on Tuesday, in the wake of the announcement of Libra.

It’s not the first time that the committee has expressed concern over Facebook’s push into cryptocurrency, either. In May, following reports from the Wall Street Journal that Facebook was working on cryptocurrency-based payments technology, Brown and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), chairman of the committee, co-signed a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking more information on the social network’s intentions in the space.

“What privacy and consumer protections would users have under the new payment system?” the senators asked Zuckerberg in the letter, on behalf of the committee.

Other prominent lawmakers have expressed their own concerns: Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, called on Facebook to pause the rollout of Libra until regulators had a chance to assess the plan.

“With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,” Waters told reporters on Tuesday.

Facebook, for its part, has taken steps that might help insulate it from such criticisms — important as it continues to recover from its long string of scandals and clashes with politicians and lawmakers.

It has ceded control of Libra to the eponymous Libra Association, a group of companies including Andreessen Horowitz, Uber, and Spotify that will jointly oversee the new cryptocurrency. However, Facebook spearheaded the creation of this coin, and remains a part of the Libra Association.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Tuesday, in response to Brown’s and Waters’ concerns, a Facebook spokesperson said “we look forward to responding to lawmakers’ questions as this process moves forward.”

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