You probably assume that banking is more or less private. Your account balance, how much you spend on lattes and how much you owe on credit cards are your own business. Yes, credit rating agencies can get some of that information, but you wouldn't think advertisers could.
That could be changing, especially if you bank with one of America's biggest banks. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Facebook has approached major banks like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Citibank. According to the Journal, Facebook wants access to customers' financial data -- including their account balances and credit card transactions.
This information would allow Facebook to provide its users with new tools. Fraud alerts, account balances and other banking notifications could be integrated into Facebook Messenger, encouraging users to spend more time on the platform. It could also allow Facebook to offer services to banks.
Facebook trades in information about its users, so after the story broke the company's stock rose. The story also created a stir among account holders and privacy advocates who are already concerned about Facebook's overall privacy practices.
The criticism prompted Facebook to comment. "A recent Wall Street Journal story implies incorrectly that we are actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data--this is not true," a spokesperson told CNN. "Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management."
As Slate commented, however, the statement doesn't really clarify the issue. If Facebook's negotiations with banks isn't "actively asking" them for financial transaction data, it's hard to say what it is instead.
Luckily, at least some of the banks aren't biting. According to the Journal, at least one of the banks dropped out of the talks citing privacy concerns. It also says that some financial executives are concerned by the scope of the information being requested.
Moreover, banks may not wish to give Facebook information that would encourage its users to remain on the platform. Instead, banks may wish to encourage their users to remain on banking apps.
Do you think it's in the consumer's interest for banks to share balance and transaction details with Facebook?