Facebook’s Plan to Partner With Banks Raises Privacy Concerns

Facebook has asked big banks to share their customers’ detailed financial records with it in an effort to offer new financial and commerce services through Facebook Messenger, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The social media network wants access to card transactions and checking account balances along with information about where its users shop, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

By helping friends and family do more than chat online, Facebook hopes to increase the amount of time that users spend with its Messenger app. Banks would get access to Facebook user information, in exchange for sharing their financial data.

Gennie Gebhart, a Researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization, told Fortune that this push to change user habits and increase their interactions with businesses through the Messenger app is dangerous for user privacy.

“Facebook already has mountains of information about our social networks, physical movements, and activity online. Do we really want to give Facebook greater insight into our finances and purchases, too?,” Gebhart said. “When we collapse all these interactions into one service, we risk giving Facebook a more and more detailed picture of who we are.”

According to Gebhart, more user information centralized on one single platform also makes information more “vulnerable to unauthorized sharing or leaking” and can make “users easier to manipulate.”

Facebook still faces criticism after revelations that political data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent. The data was later used to garner support for the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Facebook said it would not use any information provided by banks for targeted ads, and would not share it with third parties.

“We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit card companies for ads,” said Facebook spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana.

In a statement reported by CNBC, a Facebook spokesperson clarified that the company is not “actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data.” Rather, banks could offer real-time customer service to users through Facebook Messenger, according to the statement.

“The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone – and it’s completely opt-in,” the spokesperson said, adding that keeping people’s information safe is critical to its partnerships with any banking institutions.

In the last year, Facebook has discussed potential partnerships with JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup and U.S. Bancorp.

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