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UK’s Digital Pound CBDC: Privacy Concerns Persist

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UK's Digital Pound CBDC: Privacy Concerns Persist

The United Kingdom is pressing ahead with its plans for a central bank digital currency (CBDC), despite concerns about privacy. The U.K. government recently released its digital pound consultation paper, which acknowledged the potential risks but emphasized the need to build public trust. To address these concerns, the government has outlined several safeguards, including legislation passing through parliament, no access to user data by the Bank of England or the government, no programmable money, and the protection of cash. These safeguards could be weakened or removed over time.

With a U.K. election imminent, politicians from various parties are striving to find a balanced crypto policy. The Scottish National Party (SNP), the second-largest opposition party in the U.K. House of Commons, and the ruling party in Scotland, has reservations about the implications of a CBDC for privacy and inclusion. SNP member of parliament Richard Thomson stressed the importance of prioritizing consumer protection and human rights in any digital currency innovation. The SNP is closely monitoring developments and working to ensure that individual rights are safeguarded.

Despite public apprehension about privacy, all major U.K. parties are happy to see progress on the digital pound. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak aims to establish the U.K. as a crypto asset hub and has expressed support for CBDCs. The Labour Party, the largest opposition party, has backed the Bank of England’s work on the digital pound but insists on mitigating threats to privacy, financial inclusion, and stability. The SNP also wants legal protections in place before any CBDC launch to safeguard privacy and ensure financial inclusion.

Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group in the U.K., remains skeptical of the government’s assurances regarding CBDCs. The group highlights the lack of a compelling case for a digital pound and the potential risks it poses to privacy, security, and equality. During the consultation phase, Big Brother Watch encouraged citizens to voice their concerns and believes that their campaign has influenced the discussion. While they acknowledge the government’s commitment to introducing laws prohibiting state programming of digital pounds and protecting financial privacy, they express ongoing worries about a CBDC becoming a surveillance tool. The group argues that the government needs to provide detailed explanations and robust legal and technological protections to address citizens’ privacy and rights concerns.

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