European Central Bank (ECB) executive board member, Fabio Panetta, has argued that a digital euro offers superior privacy protections than privately issued stablecoins.

Panetta criticized the profit motive of private firms, emphasizing it is in their commercial interests to harvest masses of data on their users.

“We are not like private companies,” the board member told Financial Times. “We have no commercial interest in storing, managing, or monetizing the data of users.”

The ECB official also confirmed that the European Central Bank has carried out pilots testing “offline payments for small amounts, in which no data is recorded outside the wallets of payer and payee.”

“If the central bank gets involved in digital payments, privacy is going to be better protected [...] The payment will go through, but nobody in the payment chain would have access to all the information.” 

Panetta’s comments appear intended to placate popular concerns regarding how data will be collected and handled when using central bank-issued digital currencies (CBDC), with the ECB’s most recent public consultation on CBDC revealing the privacy of payments to be the highest-ranking concern among more than 8,000 respondents.

The public consultation was conducted from October 2020 until January 2021, also revealing security and pan-European reach to be popular issues of contention regarding a digital euro.

After the findings from the consultation were published in January, Panetta penned a letter to the chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) emphasizing “the protection of privacy” as a “key priority” moving forward “so that the digital euro can help maintain trust in payments in the digital age.”