Facebook has proposed a partnership with the country’s largest financial institutions, which would divulge detailed information about customers, including card transactions and checking account balances.
The information sharing would be the result of a new service that allows people to check their bank accounts via Facebook Messenger. According to a Wall Street Journal report Monday, Facebook is hoping that a new feature will make people spend more time on Messenger.
The social media giant is now attempting to justify that decision by claiming it’s already engaged in such a partnership with other financial companies.
While Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data in Messenger for ad-targeting, part of the proposed deal would see banks give Facebook information about where its users are shopping. According to the Journal, Facebook has asked JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and U.S. Bancorp about potential partnerships over the past year.
On Tuesday, following backlash to the proposed deal, Facebook pushed back against the Journal’s report, saying that the account linking would simply replace more cumbersome apps and mobile banking systems.
“The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone — and it’s completely opt-in,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Diana told ARS Technica. “We’re not using this information beyond enabling these types of experiences — not for advertising or anything else.”
According to the outlet, Diana said the account linking feature was “already live with PayPal, Citi in Singapore, and American Express in the United States.”
The Journal reported Monday that at least one, unnamed “large bank” has already pulled away from the talks due to concerns over potential privacy violations. Facebook is still suffering the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which data for more than 87 million users was harvested and used by the political consulting firm to help microtarget voters during the 2016 presidential election.
In wake of that scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went out of his way to apologize, taking out full-place newspaper ads and talking about how Facebook had a “responsibility to protect your information.”
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 25, 2018
However the Cambridge Analytica scandal is far from Facebook’s only privacy crisis. Since 2006, there have been at least nine major scandals in which users’ privacy or data was sacrificed.
Belatedly, politicians both in the United States and abroad have started to crack down, with talk of regulation for both Facebook and other Big Tech firms. The most recent example is Google, which was fined a record-breaking $5 billion in July by the European Union for violating anti-trust laws.
Facebook is not alone in its privacy-protection woes — several banks have struggled with their own data issues as well. This past weekend, Wells Fargo, one of Facebook’s proposed partners, was forced to set aside $8 million in compensation after a computer glitch accidentally foreclosed the homes of hundreds of customers.