A report from the Wall Street Journal today revealed Facebook was attempting to gain detailed financial information from its users’ banks. Oof, in how many languages can I say “no?”
According to the Journal, Facebook has approached the likes of Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup with an eye toward partnership. In exchange for users’ banking data, it proposed to offer a bank’s customers the ability to conduct business within Facebook itself.
In response, a company spokesperson told TNW any reports it had requested transaction data weren’t true, and the company asked for the partnership in order to incorporate banking chatbots into the Messenger app:
Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management. The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone – and it’s completely opt-in. We’re not using this information beyond enabling these types of experiences – not for advertising or anything else.
Given what we know about Facebook’s approach to consumer data, just from the last year or so, I think I’ll take a 20-minute phone wait over giving them my banking details.
We’re not even six months out from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the press blew the lid off a series of in-house mishaps involving users’ personal data finding its way into malicious hands — or at least having the potential to find its way to them. These data privacy scandals appeared to be at least one major catalyst behind Facebook’s precipitous plunge on the stock market at the end of last month.
Facebook has also never denied that it gathers a truly dizzying amount of data on its users. And now it wants that information to include banking data? Even if that doesn’t include info on all transactions, it’s more than a little scary to think of Facebook — whose name in this sphere is basically mud — having access to that data.
For what it’s worth, the banks might not be open to the idea. A spokesperson for Wells Fargo told NY Daily News: “Maintaining the privacy of customer data is of paramount importance to Wells Fargo. We are not actively engaged in data-sharing conversations with Facebook.”