Facebook is asking large banks in the US to share their customers’ card transactions, shopping habits, and checking account balances to offer new financial services, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In an emailed response to the report, Facebook denies that it’s “actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data.” It says that it’s simply looking to partner with banks and credit card companies to offer customer service through a chatbot in Messenger or help users manage their accounts within the app. Similar features already exist on Messenger with American Express, Mastercard, and PayPal integrations, but Facebook is looking to expand its partnerships with more traditional banks.
It’s part of Facebook’s bid to expand its Messenger app from chatting services to more core uses that would keep users on its platform longer. The new initiative comes after Facebook reported a quarter with its slowest growth since 2011.
The tech giant has talked to banks including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and US Bancorp about what sorts of banking services Facebook Messenger could provide for customers, anonymous sources told the WSJ. It’s considering a feature that shows people their checking account balances from within Messenger and one that alerts users to fraud. “People can keep track of their transaction data like account balances, receipts, and shipping updates,” Facebook stated.
Still, Facebook’s reputation is marred by its recent data privacy scandal where Cambridge Analytica misused the data of 87 million Facebook users. Sources told the WSJ that the banks are concerned about how Facebook would handle data privacy when it comes to financial information, which is often more sensitive than Facebook user details.
One bank even ended talks with Facebook, citing privacy concerns, according to the report. Facebook’s response has been to assure banks it won’t use data for targeted advertisements and will not share it with third parties.
Facebook’s desire to expand into financial services mirrors what its rivals are doing on their own platforms. Other tech companies like Google and Amazon are also asking banks to share customer data so that they can add banking services on their voice assistants, according to the WSJ’s anonymous sources. While outwardly the companies’ efforts appear nearly the same, people’s trust in Amazon and Google ranks far higher than their trust in Facebook.
Even before Cambridge Analytica rattled people’s trust in the platform, people didn’t trust Facebook as much as other tech companies. In a survey conducted by The Verge last year, people rated Facebook as a company they largely didn’t trust. While Amazon earned nearly as much trust as a bank, 30 percent of people either greatly distrusted Facebook or distrusted it somewhat.