The digital euro should be anonymous

The ECB has published the results of a public consultation on the digital euro: People are primarily concerned with the question of the traceability of money flows.

The ECB has not yet decided whether to introduce a digital euro.

VAbove all, the questions of anonymity and the protection of privacy occupy people with the digital euro. That emerges from a comprehensive analysis of a public consultation published by the European Central Bank (ECB) on Wednesday. What the public and professionals most want from such a digital currency is privacy protection (43 percent), followed by security (18 percent), the ability to pay across the euro area (11 percent), no additional costs ( 9 percent) and offline usability (8 percent).

“A digital euro can only be successful if it meets the needs of Europeans,” says ECB Executive Board member Fabio Panetta: “We will do our best to ensure that a digital euro meets the expectations of the citizens, as stated in the public consultation were highlighted. “

The ECB reports that data protection is the most important feature of a digital euro, both for the public and for professionals, especially retailers and other companies. Both groups supported requests to avoid illegal activity, with less than one in ten responses from the public advocating complete anonymity. More than two thirds of respondents said it was important for intermediaries to offer innovative services that enable access to a digital euro and said that it should be integrated into existing banking and payment systems. They spoke out in favor of offering other services in addition to the basic digital euro payments.

Lots of technical suggestions

Around a quarter of respondents believe that a digital euro should make cross-border payments faster and cheaper. They wanted the digital euro to be able to be used outside of the euro area, albeit with restrictions.

According to its own statements, the ECB received many technical suggestions from the respondents. According to a quarter of those surveyed, end-user solutions with (smart) cards or a secure element in smartphones would be preferred to enable cash-like functions. Almost half mention the need for holding limits, tiered payments, or a combination of both to control the amount of digital euros in circulation. A similar proportion of professional respondents agreed.

The public consultation started on October 12, 2020 and ended on January 12, 2021. More than 8,200 responses were received – a record turnout for a public consultation by the ECB. The vast majority of respondents were private individuals (94 percent). The remaining participants were specialist professionals from affected industries, including banks, payment service providers, merchants and tech companies.

Most of the answers came from Germany (47 percent), Italy (15 percent) and France (11 percent). According to the ECB statisticians, the answers are not necessarily representative of the views of the EU population as the consultation was open to everyone and the respondents took part on their own initiative. Nevertheless, they provided important suggestions for the analytical and experimental work of the ECB and for the upcoming decision of the Governing Council of whether a formal investigation phase should be initiated with regard to the possible issue of a digital euro.

The ECB wants to decide around the middle of the year whether to start a formal project. According to an earlier assessment by ECB President Christine Lagarde, it could be around five years before a digital version of the common currency is introduced.