A few weeks ago a developer spotted a screenshot hidden in Facebook Messenger’s code that seemed to suggest the social network was experimenting with peer-to-peer money transfers. Along with the hiring of PayPal president Davis Marcus to lead up mobile messaging, all signs seemed to point to the fact that Facebook would eventually make it possible for friends to send each other money, like Venmo or maybe Square Cash.
As I speculated at the time, mobile payments are why the social network may have been so bullish about pushing users to download the Messenger app, which 500 million+ people now use to send Facebook messages on their phones. Facebook—and everyone else—seems to think finance is the Next Big Thing ripe for disruption. They all want a piece of the payment-processing pie.
Today, in an update to its privacy policies (and as first spotted by Re/code), Facebook seems to be laying more groundwork to handle financial transactions beyond FarmVille purchases or silly birthday gifts. In its newly updated data policy (which, in Facebook’s telling, is supposed to make its privacy policies easier to understand), the company writes this:
If you use our Services for purchases or financial transactions (like when you buy something on Facebook, make a purchase in a game, or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction. This includes your payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information, and other account and authentication information, as well as billing, shipping and contact details.
Swallowing up credit card and other financial data—in addition to its deep, deep well of personal and activity data on you—inches Facebook a bit closer toward Amazon/Google territory. It has attempted to glean your credit card info in various ways before. But now Facebook is clearly thinking about diversifying its revenue streams beyond advertising, and like everyone else, its eyes are squarely on your bank account, whether it’s selling you stuff or, in all likelihood, facilitating payments between you and your friends.