Facebook has been trying for a long time to make its Messenger app a hub for commercial activity. Its latest effort? To try and convince banks to offer services inside Messenger, according to a new report. Facebook pursued partnerships with major American banks—including Citigroup, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, and U.S. Bank—that would net it access to “detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
In effect, these deals would give Messenger the ability to alert customers to fraudulent activity on their accounts or allow them to check their balances. A deeper integration with banks would also give Facebook another way to nudge users to shop on the platform. Per the WSJ‘s reporting, Facebook also asked for data about where customers are spending their money outside of Messenger.
While banks are keen to be more innovative and offer customers ways to transact on their phones, in this instance they were too concerned about Facebook’s ability to keep sensitive customer data private. In response to the story, Facebook provided to the following statement, “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. 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.”
Though audacious, it’s not surprising that Facebook would want this data. The company has made its fortune entirely through collecting deep information about its customers’ personal relationships, moods, and preferences, and there have been few roadblocks to doing this. But the company’s failure to get banks on board shows Facebook’s power has limits, and pushing into commerce will not be so easy.
This story has been updated with a statement from Facebook.