Wednesday 5 February 2020 11:54 am

Most people don’t trust big tech companies to issue digital currencies, survey finds

The majority of people across the world don’t think that tech giants can be trusted to issue digital currencies, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted for the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), found an “overwhelming lack of support” for digital currencies issued by tech companies, which the think tank said “reflects the lack of faith in such companies themselves”.

Levels of trust in tech companies were particularly low in all advanced economies, with the highest levels of skepticism in the UK, France, and Germany, while those in emerging markets were more welcoming of all potential providers of digital money.

Overall, a global majority of people said they would not be confident in digital currencies issued by major internet technology companies. 

The findings of the poll, which was conducted by Ipsos Mori, will come as a further blow to Facebook’s embattled Libra project. 

The social networking giant announced plans to launch a digital currency last summer, but the plans have faced intensive political and regulatory scrutiny across the world amid concerns that Libra could be used for money-laundering or could pose a threat to the global financial system.   

OMFIF chairman David Marsh said that banks and other traditional payments firms are “preparing uneasily for an assault on their established market positions” by big tech firms, which are “limbering up for an aggressive campaign to build up their payments businesses”.

The survey, which was conducted by Ipsos Mori, found that central banks were the institutions most trusted by the public to develop digital currencies, with the backing of 51 per cent of respondents. 

The launch of Facebook Libra has helped galvanise efforts by central banks across the world to develop their own alternatives. 

Last month, the Bank of England teamed up with other major central banks to assess the case for launching their own digital currencies. Overall, 18 central banks are now developing some form of sovereign digital currency. 

“With the decline of physical notes and coins, we risk handing complete control over the issuance and management of our money to a small group of banks, payment companies and now tech giants,” said Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money.

“Central banks have a duty to issue a digital version of cash in the form of a central bank digital currency,” she continued. 

“Unless policymakers act quickly to introduce public digital currencies, we will see the future of our money and payment systems surrendered to untrusted global corporations.”