In Shadow of Facebook, Cashless Sweden Fears Data Privacy Risks

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s oldest central bank says new regulations might be needed to safeguard the privacy of consumers in a cashless age.

Sweden has rapidly become the world’s most cashless society as consumers abandon paper money in favor of cards and payment apps. But if the payment systems are run by private companies, that may be a problem. The need to address the issue recently grew more urgent after it emerged that private user data stored by Facebook Inc. was misused by a third party.

“Maybe we don’t want the private banks to be able to use all the information about the transactions that they own,” said Martin Floden, a deputy governor at the Swedish central bank. “So maybe we need a stricter regulation of the use of that information.”

The bank is also looking into potentially issuing its own payment card or app or offer accounts with so-called e-kronas as one way to protect consumers.

While it may no longer be possible to halt the disappearance of cash, there are ways soften the effect. The Riksbank could have offices around Sweden, the state could subsidize cash use or even force banks and all shops to accept cash. But those options aren’t necessarily the best way forward, according Floden.

“It’s not an easy question,” he said in an interview in Karlstad, Sweden, on Wednesday. “A few years ago, I would have said yes, because there was still a larger infrastructure for cash. Now it would a big step to go back, and it would be costly.”

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