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Libra Lite? Facebook Pay is the social network’s latest foray into finance

Facebook just introduced a new payment system called Facebook Pay that would be accessible with Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. The new payment system debuts amid controversy on Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency known as Libra. 

Facebook Pay is meant to make in-app purchases, transfer payments from person to person, and make purchases on select Facebook pages or businesses, as well as on Facebook Marketplace. All major credit cards are supported by Facebook Pay, as well as PayPal and Stripe. 

“Facebook Pay is part of our ongoing work to make commerce more convenient, accessible and secure for people on our apps. And in doing so, we believe we can help businesses grow and empower people everywhere to buy and sell things online,” Deborah Liu, the vice president of Marketplace and Commerce at Facebook, wrote in Tuesday’s blog post announcing Facebook Pay. “We’ll continue to develop Facebook Pay and look for ways to make it even more valuable for people on our apps.”

One of the main criticisms of Facebook’s proposed Libra system is privacy issues since the social media network had its fair share of those in the past. However, Facebook laid out the security that went into Facebook Pay. 

“We designed Facebook Pay to securely store and encrypt your card and bank account numbers, perform anti-fraud monitoring on our systems to detect unauthorized activity and provide notifications for account activity. You can also add a PIN or use your device biometrics, such as touch or face ID recognition, for an extra layer of security when sending money or making a payment. Facebook does not receive or store your device’s biometric information,” the post reads. 

Facebook Pay is currently only available on Facebook and Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp and Instagram will be added later on. Once it’s available on WhatsApp and Instagram, you won’t need a Facebook account to use Facebook Pay. 

While Facebook said in its announcement that the two payment systems are entirely separate, Facebook Pay could very well be the precursor to Libra. There’s been a bipartisan consensus that Facebook having a currency is a bad idea, with both Republicans and Democrats attacking the plan since its inception in the summer.

Beyond lawmakers, many of Libra’s initial partners appear uncertain about the cryptocurrency’s chances. In October, PayPal decided to end its participation in the Libra Association following regulatory scrutiny from lawmakers in both the U.S. and Europe. Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe, and Argentine e-commerce giant Mercado Pago all pulled out of the project shortly after that.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last month about Libra, defending the idea but acknowledging the struggles left to overcome. 

“I understand we’re not the ideal messenger right now. We’ve faced a lot of issues over the past few years, and I’m sure people wish it was anyone but Facebook putting this idea forward,” he said in his testimony.

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