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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. Attorney General William Barr wants Facebook to give law enforcement a way to read encrypted messages sent by users, re-igniting tensions between tech companies and law enforcement. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON -- Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg will appear before Congress this month as the tech giant is under pressure from lawmakers and regulators over its enormous market power and record of privacy breaches.

Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee, announced Wednesday that Zuckerberg will testify at a hearing by the panel on Oct. 23. The focus will be on Facebook's plan to create a digital currency and its role in housing. The company agreed in a legal settlement in March to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

Lawmakers from both parties and top regulators, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, have criticized Facebook's plan for the new currency, expressing concern that it could be used for illicit activity such as money laundering or drug trafficking. There also is concern that the large reserve created with money used to buy the new currency, to be called Libra, could supplant the Fed and destabilize the financial system, and that consumers could be hurt by Libra losses.

"Mark looks forward to testifying before the House Financial Services Committee and responding to lawmakers' questions," Facebook said in a statement Wednesday.

In July, Waters and other committee Democrats sent a letter to Facebook requesting a halt on moving forward with the currency and with the digital wallet, called Calibra, which would be used in the new currency system. House Democrats also have threatened legislation that would block big tech companies from getting into banking.

France's finance minister said Wednesday that the European Union should not allow Facebook to develop the currency project on "European territory" because it threatens the monetary sovereignty of member countries. "It should not be the role of a private company to try to get a sovereign currency like a sovereign state," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Unlike digital currencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum, Facebook's plan calls for Libra to be backed by real currencies.

David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading the project, told lawmakers in July that Facebook would not start the currency project until it had received all the necessary approvals from regulators and secured safeguards to protect the privacy of users' data.

Business on 10/10/2019

Print Headline: Lawmakers to quiz Facebook CEO on new-currency plan

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