Facebook has denied allegations that it is actively asking U.S. banks to share financial details of its users such as account balances and payment card transactions, even though it did admit that it is in talks with banks about a chatbot service on Facebook Messenger.
Earlier this year, Facebook's commitment in securing the privacy of its users was called into question after it came to light that a data analytics firm was able to harvest personal information of millions of Facebook users without obtaining prior consent.
Facebook has since strengthened its privacy terms and has taken fresh steps to win back the trust of privacy-conscious users. These include removing developers' access to a user's data if the user hasn't used an app in three months, restricting the data that a user has to provide to an app during the sign-up process to only name, email address, and a profile photo, and requiring developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data.
Facebook wants to know where you spend, and how much you spend
However, a report from The Wall Street Journal on Monday forced Facebook back into the raging privacy debate, with the social media giant having to issue yet another statement to restore its credentials as a firm that truly values consumer privacy.
The WSJ article stated that in order to introduce new services in Facebook Messenger, the firm is asking U.S. banks to share sensitive financial information of users, including account balances and payment card transactions.
"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 added.
Responding to the WSJ article, Facebook said that the allegations were not true as all the company wants is to offer a chatbot service on Messenger where users can chat with their banks without having to wait on hold over the phone.
"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 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," the firm told PC Mag UK in an e-mail.
Facebook wanted access to our health records too!
It remains to be seen what sort of a deal gets worked out between U.S. banks and Facebook in the long run. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company was even forced to put on hold a research programme that involved the company obtaining detailed medical records of patients from several leading U.S. hospitals and matching such data with patients' Facebook profiles.
According to Facebook, the research programme was aimed at helping medical professionals develop "specific treatment and intervention plans that take social connection into account".
News about the questionable research programme was first revealed by CNBC who noted that while Facebook told the hospitals that personally identifiable information in the patient data obtained from them would be obscured, the company wanted to use a 'hashing' technique to match a patient's medical and social profiles which could then be used by medical professionals to develop specific treatment and intervention plans.