Facebook recently posted five new blockchain-related jobs. The company is looking for a data scientist, a data engineer, two software engineers and a product marketing lead for its blockchain team.
Facebook reportedly launched its blockchain team back in May. At that time, David Marcus left his role running Facebook’s Messenger app to head up the group, which also includes Instagram’s vice president of engineering James Everingham and its VP of product Kevin Weil. Marcus is also a board member for the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
When it started out, the team had fewer than a dozen members. Now, it has close to 40, news site Cheddar reports. According to Cheddar, Facebook is working to recruit employees with experience related to payments and cryptocurrency, and the internal blockchain team includes several former PayPal executives.
Exploring Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Technologies
In January, Mark Zuckerberg discussed the potential of cryptocurrency in decentralization when announcing his “personal challenge” for the year. He noted that the company would “study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies” and how Facebook could use them.
Since then, the company has ramped up its activity related to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Currently, it seems to be mostly in the exploratory stage. The internal blockchain group likely serves to monitor the risks the technologies pose to Facebook as well as the opportunities it presents.
It’s unclear how Facebook might use blockchain technology. Facebook hasn’t announced any plans, but Cheddar reported in May that the company is exploring the prospect of creating a cryptocurrency.
It would most likely take years for any crypto or blockchain efforts of Facebook’s to come to fruition, and the company would probably need to continue its hiring spree.
Facebook’s recent data and privacy scandals may be holding it back, however, and causing some to question whether Facebook should be trusted with financial information. In a world where hackers steal the personal information of 47% of U.S. adults in a single year, being cautious is warranted. The company’s secrecy surrounding its blockchain plans have also caused some irritation in the sector, which is based on transparency and decentralization.
In March, Facebook found itself doing damage control after reports surfaced that Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm working for the Trump campaign, collected user data, secretly stored it and improperly used it to influence the election. Shortly thereafter, a member of the U.K. Parliament published internal Facebook documents obtained as part of a lawsuit. The documents showed Facebook employees discussing a Messenger update that would enable Facebook to collect user data without their express consent. One employee noted that the move was “a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective.”
It makes sense, though, that Facebook would want to create a native payment system, especially since it has the large user base needed to do so. It could be especially useful in less developed markets that don’t have advanced payment systems. The company could eventually offer financial services, such as loans, from which it could profit.
Future of the Blockchain Sector
Facebook is far from the only company looking into blockchain and cryptocurrency. Microsoft and Amazon both developed blockchain products in 2018. Of course, there’s also a plethora of young crypto and blockchain companies such as Coinbase. A messaging app called Telegram has raised nearly $2 billion from private investors to develop a blockchain-based messaging and commerce platform that could pose a threat to Facebook.
Will Facebook play a significant role in the future of blockchain technology? It’s difficult to say, but it would likely be beneficial for the company to get involved while the technology is still young. If it doesn’t, Facebook could fall behind competitors or even be replaced entirely.
Whether it should get involved, especially in the financial sector, is another issue on which there are numerous opinions. While Facebook hasn’t demonstrated that it should be trusted with personal data, it continues to be a popular social media site and a powerful influence in the tech sector.
About the author:
Kayla Matthews is a tech writer from Pittsburgh whose work has been featured in crypto outlets such as Cointelegraph, Bitcoin Magazine and Information Age. She’s also been a frequent writer for The Next Web as well as other technology publications. To see more of her work, you can visit Productivity Bytes or follow her on Twitter.
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