Facebook: No, We're Not Seeking Your Financial Data

Facebook is pushing back against a Wall Street Journal report that claims the company has been holding talks with major US banks on getting access to people's financial data to power new services over Facebook Messenger.

Does Facebook want your financial data?

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was asking US banks to share detailed financial information on their customers, including checking account balances and payment card transactions. The goal: to build more services over Facebook Messenger.

In response, Facebook is denying the accuracy of the report. "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 company said in an email.

The company has merely been partnering with banks and credit card providers on chatbots and account management over Facebook Messenger, it said. Examples of this include Bank of America and American Express, which you can text with over the chat service.

"The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone — and it's completely opt-in. We're not using this information beyond enabling these types of experiences — not for advertising or anything else," Facebook added.

Facebook is pushing back on the Wall Street Journal's report as the company is still reeling from the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. Earlier this year, Facebook executives were forced to apologize for allowing the personal data on as many as 87 million people end up in the hands of a UK political consultancy.

To stop further leaks, Facebook has introduced new tools and measures to prevent third-party apps from harvesting people's data. However, the Wall Street Journal's report paints a picture of a company still attempting to find ways to generate revenue, even when it involves collecting sensitive financial data. "As part of the proposed deals, Facebook asked banks for information about where its users are shopping with their debit and credit cards outside of purchases they make using Facebook Messenger," the report said, citing unnamed sources.

The banks reportedly involved in the talks with Facebook declined to go into details. But they told PCMag they're quite aware of the privacy concerns, and wouldn't want to jeopardize the security of customers' financial data.

"Maintaining the privacy of customer data is of paramount importance to Wells Fargo. We are not actively engaged in data-sharing conversations with Facebook," Well Fargo said in an email.

"While we regularly have conversations about potential partnerships, safeguarding the security and privacy of our customers' data and providing customer choice are paramount in everything we do," Citigroup said.

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