If you were using social media this week, you may have seen an ad alerting you to impending changes to the way you bank - and shop - online.

That relates to new European rules that officially come into force in September. The most obvious change you'll see will be around security, as users can expect to jump through additional hurdles in order to prove that they are who they say they are.

However, a second aspect of the European Union's second Payment Services Directive has the potential to be far more significant in terms of how people handle their money on a day-to-day basis. That is the introduction of open banking.

"This would mean that third party payment providers - if the consumer consented to it - will have to be able to have access consumer bank accounts," said Rowena Fitzgerald, partner with Mason, Hayes & Curran.

"For the banking industry as it stands, that was a big change for them in that they now have to make sure that their bank is open to new technology providers who may wish to access customer bank accounts."

Rather than taking the guise of a traditional bank, the types of companies that might avail of open banking would tend to be in the financial technology space.

That might include apps that provide budgeting tools to users, which will now be able to plug directly into an account - or multiple accounts - and aggregate all of the information in one place. 

Banks in Ireland have been preparing for these changes for more than a year - as has the Central Bank, which acts as regulator to financial services companies, including those may take advantage of the new rules.

One of the companies already under its regulatory remit is social networking firm Facebook. However this week it made clear that its ambitions lie far beyond simply plugging in to someone's existing bank account.

Viva Libra

On Tuesday Facebook unveiled Libra - a new digital currency backed by a coalition of other companies. That, of course, includes Facebook; as well as big names like Mastercard, Visa, Ebay, Uber and Vodafone.

It follows in the footsteps of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, however its design appears to borrow heavily from more traditional forms of money.

"It's clearly a project that is created by adults - they've clearly done their homework and are going for what is fundamentally a very conservative approach," said Quinn Dupont, assistant professor at UCD College of Business.

A big part of that 'adult' approach is the decision to back Libra with a reserve, which will lean on traditional assets like US dollars and government bonds in order to provide price stability.

"They're backing it very concretely," he said. "You won't ever be assured that you can trade one Libra for one US dollar, but if you can buy a chocolate bar with one Libra today, tomorrow you'll be able to do the same."  

No doubt aware of the public's increasing mistrust, Facebook was also keen to highlight the independent nature of Libra - standing as a completely separate, not-for-profit entity that's governed by the firms, academic institutions and organisations that support it.

Alongside the cryptocurrency's unveiling, however, Facebook also announced Calibra - a Libra-powered digital wallet that is very much part of its business.

In the days since, reaction to the news has been mixed.

For those that have been working in the area of cryptocurrencies and blockchain - the technical standard that helps power the money - Facebook's entrance is being seen as a game-changer.

"The really incredible thing about this announcement is that Facebook has an opportunity to deploy cryptocurrency at mass scale to billions," said David Wachsman, CEO of blockchain-focused PR firm Wachsman.

"The 2.4 billion users on Facebook alone is almost equivalent to the global population in 1950. 

"The number of people who use crypto today is a scant few... estimations are maybe 100 million people. Almost the entire world population from 1950 exists on [Facebook's] platform. All of those people could have a wallet tomorrow."

It is also clear that Libra's founders want it to be more than a niche product - it is very much pitched as being a useful currency.

Beyond some basics, however, information around Libra is somewhat sketchy.

How it will be regulated, and by whom, is perhaps the most glaring omission at present.

Libra's mission statement gives passing reference to the issue of regulation - but it is brief and swaddled in vague Silicon Valley-ese about "collaborating and innovating" to ensure that it operates on a "sustainable, secure and trusted framework".

Regulators quick to react

But national regulators have already made clear that they are watching - and they won't allow the digital standard to set the terms of engagement.

Initial reactions from both Jerome Powell in the US Federal Reserve and Bank of England governor Mark Carney seemed relaxed and open-minded, but they also made clear that they would not wait to play catch-up in the area.

Meanwhile France signaled its scepticism by initiating a G7 taskforce looking at how central banks might deal with entities such as Libra.

"Traditionally [regulation] is based on where it's domiciled, so in this case Switzerland, but if they want to provide access to particular markets they need to be compliant," said Mr Dupont. "I think everybody, more or less, plays by the same rule book... but that's a moving target at this point, regulators are constantly talking about this stuff."

Robust regulation is not just a box-ticking exercise either.

Authorities will be watching carefully to see if Libra ends up as a sovereign - and as a result competing - currency, which may impact how effectively they can regulate their own economies.

They will also want sufficient oversight to ensure the standard does not become a hotbed of black market trading, money laundering or worse.

Failure to deal with this issue will put Libra on a collision course with national authorities, while it could also give traditional banks an excuse to play hardball with a potential competitor.

However, the more red tape Libra has to deal with the harder it will also be for the currency to deliver on the promise of cheap and rapid transactions.

One way it may seek to solve this is through the use of anti-money laundering standards like Know Your Customer - which requires the identities of those involved in a transaction to be verified.

"If you wanted to do something illegal with your Libra coins they would ultimately be able to trace it back to you from a prosecutions standpoint," said Mr Dupont. "But on the other hand you could transact with companies or individuals anonymously."

Linking financial activity to an individual may be a prerequisite, but what else Facebook does with that link may well attract the interest of regulators beyond central banks.

Libra v Calibra

While Libra itself will is not part of Facebook Inc, Calibra - a digital wallet that handles the currency - is.

It will sit inside the likes of Whatsapp and Messenger, allowing users to send and receive money within their social media account.

The data privacy issues this could create are massive.

Facebook makes its money by targeting ads at users like you, and the more it knows about you the more targeted (and more lucrative) those ads become.

Currently it learns what it can about you from the details you actively provide on its platforms - like your name, gender or location. The Facebook pages you visit, posts you like or topics you discuss also go towards the profile it has of you. In addition to that Facebook code is also strewn across countless other websites, meaning it is quietly picking up the breadcrumbs you drop even as you browse beyond its domain.

Now; imagine it had access to your bank account too. Not just your bank balance - but also your credit and debit card transactions, which detail the when and where of every purchase you make.

At the very least that could super-charge ad targeting. However knowledge of a customer's interests, past purchases and current spending power could even influence the prices they're presented with at the point of sale. 

For its part, Facebook promises that Calibra will be a stand-alone entity within its group.

Its (currently brief) document on its commitment to customers says it will not share account information or financial data with the rest of the company "without customer consent" and that such data "will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook Inc family of products".

"My understanding is that there have been 'assurances' that there will be no tie to Facebook profiles," said Mr Wachsman.

"That said, because the details don't fully exist yet, what I should say is that with certain blockchain protocols it's quite easy to trace transactions, because there's an infinite record of all transactions every recorded on the blockchain."

Regulators are likely to cast a suspicious eye on any assurances Facebook may make.

For a start, their promise regarding Calibra has echoes of the one made to EU regulators when it wanted to buy Whatsapp - something it quickly rolled back on once the deal was done.

Even if there is a barrier between Calibra and the rest of the group, the opaque nature of how Facebook targets its ads will make it extremely difficult for national authorities to ensure that it's water-tight.

Into the great unknown

The goals Libra sets out for itself are fairly lofty. It wants to connect the 1.7 billion people who do not currently own bank accounts, for example, while also providing quicker and cheaper transactions for all.

Whether that is achievable may only become clear once the rubber meets the road.

For a start, many of the world's most financially isolated people live under governments that are hostile towards cryptocurrencies and social media. There is also no knowing whether people will actually want to use Libra/Calibra once is available - or whether they will use it the way Facebook and Co intend.

After all, Bitcoin was originally envisioned as a currency for the internet - one free from government interference or legal oversight. However its open and untethered design has made its value extremely volatile, meaning it is of more use to profit-seeking investors than someone trying to make a purchase.

In fairness, there is the same uncertainty around how the EU's vision of open banking will ultimately play out.

It success hinges on customers' willingness to engage and many of its best use-cases may not be obvious for some time. 

The critical advantage it has, however, is that regulators and banks are already on board.