Beleaguered Facebook has approached some of the major US banks to share their customers’ data so it could develop new, improved services on its Messenger texting platform.
It is understood the banks approached by Facebook included Chase, JP Morgan, Citibank and Wells Fargo.
In a climate of criticism over Facebook’s sharing of data, the timing of the move could have been better. But they insisted they were not asking for personal transaction details.
Instead, Facebook wants data such as bank card transactions, checking account balances and where purchases are made. The social network’s goal, they said was to create new ways for Messenger to be an integral part of the interactions between banks and their customers. With 1.3 billion users this would represent a huge involvement in the banking communication systems.
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.- Facebook: Public statement
Messenger has been incredibly useful for businesses to help keep track of account information such as balances, receipts or shipping dates and Facebook insisted they were not going to use the information beyond enabling these types of experiences, especially ‘not for advertising or anything else.’
But of course, this comes at a time when Facebook is under increasing criticism that it has not been vigilant when it came to safeguarding users’ private information. This in turn followed the revelations when Facebook admitted 87 million users had their data exploited by Cambridge Analytica which worked for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
And while Mark Zuckerberg announced in May that Facebook would be rolling out new privacy controls demanded by European regulators there is still widespread disquiet about security and privacy issues around Facebook.
Most of the banks named by the anonymous source refused to comment directly. Citigroup told the media, privacy and safeguarding their customers data was ‘paramount in everything we do.’
Likewise, JP Morgan’s spokesperson, Patricia Wexler said, ‘we don’t share our customers off-platform transaction data with these platforms and had to say no to some things as a result.’
This summer has been a trying time for Facebook when shares in the social media giant plummeted, wiping out more than $100 billion of its valuation. This after Facebook missed quarterly revenue forecasts and warned investors growth would be far weaker than previously estimated.
Image: Christoph Scholz