Monday, January 30, 2017

From DNB Coin to ECB Coin...?

About a year ago, it became clear that the Dutch central bank, much like other central banks, was actively experimenting with blockchain technology to further establish pros and cons of distributed ledger technology. It had developed a so-called DNB-coin - a private fork of the bitcoin blockchain - which further reinforced a whole discussion on central bank issued bitcoin-like currencies (Fedcoin as outlined by the blog of JP Koning).

Fast forward to the EU parliament, where last week, rapporteur Cora van Nieuwenhuizen presented a draft Fintech report, that calls on the European Commission to draw up a Fintech Action Plan. And in this plan, under item number 6, the ECB is recommended to launch experimentations with a 'virtual Euro'. I think we may dub this as the call for an ECB-coin.

One can only guess what exactly would be meant here, but my best guess would be that this means the ECB can now freely choose to experiment with methods for distributing digital euro's using advanced blockchain or distributed ledger technology. So would they design it themselves, or involve themselves into market initiatives such as R3, Hyperledger?

Anonymous ECB-coins or not? 
Time will undoubtedly tell how this experiment with ECB-coins will evolve. We should note however that, there is also a European legislative initiative to limit the use of cash. So it appears logical that the cash-limiting initiative could reinforce the development of central bank issued virtual currencies (i.e. euro's on a blockchain).

Those will not be truly anonymous ECB-coins, if you ask me. Close reading of this last legislative proposal, I noticed that anonymous digital currencies (such as the good old digicash) are not truly desired:
In view of the development of cryptocurrencies and the existence of other means of payments ensuring anonymity, an option could be to extend the restrictions to cash payments to all payments ensuring anonymity (cryptocurrencies, payment in kinds, etc.) 
The end of anonimity and begin of pseudonimity 
In sum we will be watching the end of anonimity, but this may not be its true end. I think it would be fairly easy to device new business and payment models where one slices off the good-reputation of a payer/payee (not blacklisted, no terrorist etc) into a pseudonomous, tokenised system that allows payer, payee and all involved financial institutions not to know each other but still transact securely and within the legal parameters as set by society.

Which most likely brings us back to square one: the blockchain.