In brief: Facebook doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to data privacy, but the company isn't letting its troubled past deter it from pursuing new data sharing partnerships. Reports now claim the platform wants to gain access to its users' financial information to 'boost engagement.'
The dust surrounding the Cambridge Analytica data privacy incident still hasn't fully settled, but Facebook is already looking for additional ways to get its hands on user data.
According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the latest data partnership Facebook is pursuing could involve some of the US' biggest banking organizations. Specifically, the social media company wants to incorporate its users' financial data into Messenger, allowing them to to check their account balances or watch for fraud alerts.
Facebook is currently discussing partnership ideas with firms like Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase, but the Cambridge Analytica incident has reportedly caused at least "one large U.S. bank" to pull out of the talks.
Though the identity of that bank is unknown, it's not a surprise that some of Facebook's potential partners would be a bit leery of the company's business practices.
After all, if a financial institution shares data that is later exposed in a breach, the bank may share the blame in the eyes of regulators.
At any rate, according to the WSJ, Facebook is not interested in using any data it would gain from banks for ad-targeting purposes.
"We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit card companies for ads," Facebook spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana said in a statement. "We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships, or contracts with banks or credit card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads."
It's not clear if Facebook's attempts to obtain user financial data will be successful or not, but we'll likely find out in the coming months.
Update 12:15PM: Facebook has responded to these reports with the following statement (initially sent to Engadget):
A recent Wall Street Journal story implies incorrectly that we are actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data – this is not true. Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management. Account linking enables people to receive real-time updates in Facebook Messenger where people can keep track of their transaction data like account balances, receipts, and shipping updates. 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. A critical part of these partnerships is keeping people's information safe and secure.