European Commission Seeks More Customer Data from Bitcoin Services
The European Commission, the executive arm for the European Union, has said that it plans to tighten reporting standards for digital currency exchanges as part of a broader effort to restrict terrorist financing channels.
The Commission said that it intends to require both exchange and wallet service providers in Europe to identify their customers, a move that comes after growing debate among EU policymakers about whether digital currencies are being used by terrorist groups to transfer funds.
The announcement comes on the heels of a report by the EU’s top law enforcement agency, Europol, that stated there is no clear evidence tying the technology to terrorist financing efforts.
A notice published today outlined how the Commission intends to regulate exchanges and wallet providers, stating:
"The Commission is planning to bring virtual currency exchange platforms under the scope of the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, in order to help identify the users who trade in virtual currencies. In addition, the Commission will examine the possibility of applying the licensing and supervision rules of the Payment Services Directive (PSD) to virtual currency exchange platforms, as well as virtual 'wallet providers'."
The effort, the Commission says, is aimed at "ending the anonymity associated with such exchanges".
The Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, calls for member-states to tighten reporting and data retention requirements on transactions in the financial system. The Payment Services Directive, issued in 2007, sought to harmonize the rules governing payments in the EU.
The Financial Times reports that a number of the items included in the proposal are being pushed by French President Francois Hollande in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last November. The Commission is weighing new curbs on prepaid card use, as well as the circulation of high-denomination bank notes.
Notably, the Commission notice touches on the subject of issuing a ban on virtual currencies in the EU. In a section entitled "Why not just ban virtual currencies?", the notice explains that while several countries have adopted restrictive policies, no actual ban has yet been instituted, which it attributes to low adoption rates and an acknowledgement of the technology's promise.
"Virtual currencies are often considered as a useful tool for rapid international payment transfers and low cost money remittances," the Commission said. "To date, virtual currencies represent an innovative but rather small market."
The announcement comes shortly after the European Union Parliament, the legislative branch of the EU, held a separate hearing to discuss digital currency regulation.
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