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BIS illustrates how CBDC payments can balance privacy and transparency

A recent report from Project Tourbillon, led by the Bank for International Settlements’ Innovation Hub, reveals significant advancements in balancing privacy and transparency in CBDCs.

Project Tourbillon, an initiative spearheaded by the Bank for International Settlements’ (BIS) Innovation Hub in Switzerland, has made significant strides in the realm of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). The project’s primary focus is on maintaining user privacy in digital currency transactions, a critical and complex issue in the landscape of digital finance.

The recently published final report from Project Tourbillon reveals a nuanced approach to privacy in CBDC transactions. It proposes a system where users can execute payments without disclosing personal information to merchants or other parties.

The design aims to protect individual privacy, a fundamental concern in the digital age, but does not compromise on the transparency necessary for merchants, who must disclose their identity to banks. This approach addresses key challenges, such as tax evasion and the prevention of illicit financial activities.

Thomas Moser from the Swiss National Bank emphasizes the difficulty of this balance, noting the technological challenges in assuring privacy protection, and the need to prevent the misuse of high-level privacy features.

Project Tourbillon has successfully developed two scalable prototypes, demonstrating potential in handling a growing volume of transactions. However, the project is still in its nascent stages. There are several avenues that require further exploration, including sustainable business models, the feasibility of offline payments, and other critical features that would make CBDCs viable for adoption.

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