BIS CBDC Positions To Take On Crypto With Privacy Features

Tourbillon is a privacy-focused CBDC, but the language around it suggests that it's competing for crypto's market.

Is Tourbillon really the bridge between crypto and CBDCs?

The Bank of International Settlements, known as the "central bank for central bankers", is well on its way to creating a CBDC that (it claims) will maintain the privacy of its users.

However, the language and positioning around Project Tourbillon suggest that there's an ulterior motive: Take on the crypto world at its own game and supplant it.

BIS And Bitcoin: Day And Night

In the past, BIS has been harshly anti-crypto. This comes as no surprise; as the forces of centralization and control in the financial world go, there are few who represent the status quo more completely.

Agustin Carstens, the General Manager of the BIS, is a pantomime villain who has previously railed against bitcoin and crypto. It will come as no surprise that he believes a CBDC that gives central bankers "absolute control" over how money is used would be a positive thing, not a complete anathema.

Now, with widespread pushback against CBDCs, largely on privacy-related grounds, it appears that the BIS is seeking to co-opt the narratives of the crypto world.

Project Tourbillon

The BIS is developing Project Tourbillon as a CBDC that supposedly provides cash-like anonymity to payers. (A "tourbillon is a part of a watch mechanism designed to increase accuracy, if you were wondering.)

Privacy is a foundational requirement for retail CBDCs, consistently ranking at or near the top of users' concerns, according to recent surveys conducted by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.

Tourbillon aims to provide "privacy, security, and scalability in a retail CBDC": A trinity of features that will instantly be familiar to those in the crypto world. Moreover, the language used in Tourbillon's promotional video is, at points, vaguely reminiscent of the Cypherpunk Manifesto.

Has the BIS taken the orange pill? Hell no. More likely, they're looking to usurp crypto's ethos and attraction by using its own terminology to compete with it.

"Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Better"

The BIS's video specifically mentions crypto as a pseudonymous solution that lacks full privacy. Moreover, they're looking to position as the heir to crypto, with better technology ("We implement post-quantum cryptography for security", for a start.) References to "scalability" are sprinkled through their marketing materials.

Tourbillon is essentially positioning as a new kind of retail-focused privacy coin that makes existing crypto-native solutions look obsolete.

The two prototypes for the CBDC put forward by BIS are based on the work of David Chaum, a pioneer in the world of cryptography. The claim is that a user can pay a merchant without the merchant knowing their personal information; KYC data is only known by the merchant's bank.

That sounds fair enough, and it's not so different from the system we currently have. The problem arises when you look at Tourbillon in the context of both citizens' resistance to CBDCs as a general concept, and the BIS's words about why they want a CBDC in the first place.

"Verify, don't trust" is a popular maxim in the crypto world, and for good reason. The question is raises in this instance is, Do you want to trust the central bank for central banks?

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