Facebook has asked large US banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users. Over the past year that’s been J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and US Bancorp to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger, said people familiar with the matter to the Wall Street Journal.
The social media giant talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, the people said. It has also pitched fraud alerts, some of the people said. One large US bank pulled away from talks due to privacy concerns, some of the people said. Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data for ad-targeting purposes or share it with third parties.
Data privacy is a sticking point in the banks’ conversations with Facebook, according to people familiar with the matter. The talks are taking place as Facebook faces several investigations over its ties to political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which accessed data on as many 87 million Facebook users without their consent.
Facebook has told banks that the additional customer information could be used to offer services that might entice users to spend more time on Messenger, a person familiar with the discussions said. The company is trying to deepen user engagement: Investors shaved more than $120 billion from its market value in one day last month after it said its growth is starting to slow.
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 people said. Messenger has some 1.3 billion monthly active users.
A partnership with American Express allows Facebook users to contact the card company’s representatives. Last year, Facebook struck a deal with PayPal that allows users to send money through Messenger. Mastercard cardholders can place online orders with certain merchants through Messenger using the card company’s Masterpass digital wallet. (A Mastercard spokesman said Facebook doesn’t see card information.)
Banks face pressure to build relationships with big online platforms, which reach billions of users and drive a growing share of commerce. They also are trying to reach more users digitally. Many struggle to gain traction in mobile payments. Yet banks are hesitant to hand too much control to third-parties platforms such as Facebook. They prefer to keep customers on their own websites and apps.
In an effort to compete with PayPal’s Venmo, a group of large banks last year connected their smartphone apps to money-transfer network Zelle. Results are mixed so far: while usage has risen, many banks still aren’t on the platform. In recent years, Facebook has tried to transform Messenger into a hub for customer service and commerce, in keeping with a broader trend among mobile messaging services.
Google and Amazon also have asked banks to share data if they join with them, in order to provide basic banking services on applications such as Google Assistant and Alexa, according to people familiar with the conversations.