On Monday 6th August 2018, the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported that Facebook is now allegedly attempting to ask U.S. banks to divulge consumer’s financial data. The story implies that Facebook wants banks to share some of the details about their customer’s financial information in return for offering new services to their users. So what does it mean for the Facebook users?
In recent months Facebook has already come under fire for its poor handling of users’ security, particularly following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. As the scandal unfolded, it was revealed that people were duped into volunteering vast amounts of personal information about themselves and those people in their circle of friends.
In a press statement, Facebook responded by saying,
“A recent Wall Street Journal story implies incorrectly that we are actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data – this is not true.”
The response goes further to clarify FB’s stance: “Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management.”
Facebook has been vocal about increasingly wanting to become a platform where people are able to do more than just connect with friends. They want users to also be able to buy and sell goods and services easily too.
Media Hype or Deeper Security Issues?
The broadly reported Cambridge Analytica scandal brought Facebook’s use of personal and private information under intense public scrutiny. However, it’s interesting to note that the social media giant has not fallen victim to a traditional data breach where data was intentionally stolen by hackers, as Scope Weekly has recently covered about other large companies such as Uber, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Equifax, Sony, and many others.
Although less widely publicized, Google was also asked in July 2018 to explain its practice of allowing third-party app developers to scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users and how users’ privacy might be impacted.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also taken action against companies such as Microsoft and Twitter, as well as Google and Facebook, for allegedly violating privacy rules.
Protecting User Privacy
The social media giant maintains that it already allows Facebook users in Singapore with Citibank accounts to link their accounts. Those customers are then able to use the bank’s Messenger chatbot to ask for customer service help, check their account balances or report fraudulent transactions, all without the need to wait on a phone line that may leave them on hold for a substantial amount of time.
Facebook also works closely with PayPal in more than 40 countries, allowing users to receive receipts for purchases made via the Messenger app.
Facebook has been vocal about explaining how they intend to protect users’ privacy and keep their information safe. Any features planned for linking Facebook accounts to banking or financial accounts are intended to be strictly opt-in.
An example given of how users’ data and security are being protected is that Singapore users wanting to link their account to a Citibank Messenger chatbot are required to complete a two-factor authentication through their phones.
Other notable examples of large online companies asking banks to share users’ financial details with them include Google and Amazon.com. It’s believed that Alphabet Inc and Amazon.com asked banks to share data with them in order to provide services on the Google Assistant application or Amazon’s Alexa.
Matt Perault, Director of Public Policy for Facebook said in a post “Being able to take our information from one app or service and move it to another makes our lives more convenient and promotes innovation.”
To date, the Scope Weekly has not received a response from Facebook to our direct questions. This article will be updated accordingly if responses are received.
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