The Wall Street Journal – and several other sources – reported that Facebook was asking banks to hand over your transactions and spending information. But is that really true? According to Facebook, absolutely not.
We have to say that this particular “fake news” release has to be one of the most ridiculous stretches of the truth we’ve seen so far this year. Given how much fake news has circulated in 2018, that’s really saying something. And it’s even more surprising that some of the nation’s most respected news outlets picked it up and ran with it without even confirming.
Let’s get the lies out of the way and get to the truth, shall we?
• Facebook representative, Diana (last name unknown), clarified the rumors by putting an end to them once and for all. “A recent Wall Street Journal story implies incorrectly that we are actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data – this is not true,” she said.
• Here’s what’s really happening: Facebook wants to work with banks to make it possible for you to manage your accounts, check your balance, or get customer support from your bank right from within Facebook. This is similar to services provided on Skype and other platforms right now.
• Services would be provided through chatbots, messenger access to customer support, or automated assistance with account management. This would not give Facebook the right or ability to collect your spending information, transactions, etc.
• Even in the case of balance checks and other information, Facebook would simply receive that one piece of information if and when you request it. They would need this ability in order to show you the information, just as an ATM needs to access limited information if you run a balance check at the machine.
• “Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management,” the representative explained. She also stated that account linking would give users the power to access real-time banking updates on “transaction data like account balances, receipts, and shipping updates.”
• But wait – isn’t this the same thing? Not really. The difference is that the original articles suggested that Facebook wanted to access this information for some nefarious reason, such as to show you ads or sell you products. This isn’t the case because the social media platform would not have the legal right to use the information in this way.
• Instead, Facebook would only access your information when you specifically request updates, and would not store information or use it within their marketing campaigns.
• A somewhat comparative service exists at Mint.com and other personal finance sites, where you can link your banking accounts and have the platform automatically alert or email you when certain events (like low balances or automated debits) take place. In the case of Facebook, actions like these would become possible without leaving the site, plus you would gain the ability to communicate with your banking representatives via chat.
• To be clear, this does and should still raise some concerns. It isn’t clear how Facebook intends to secure such communications, and we’re reserving judgement until we can be sure that they intend to be responsible with it. But the concept of allowing account linking is not new, nor does it automatically represent a malicious use of your banking information on its own.
• Moreover, we don’t even know if the banks will agree to let Facebook do it just yet. All we know so far is that the company is working with JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and US Bancorp.