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Facebook asks US banks for financial information to offer chatbot on Messenger: Report

Facebook has asked US banks for detailed financial information of their customers, including card transactions and checking-account balances to offer new financial services to users, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The publication reports that the company has asked some of America’s largest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup Inc. and U.S. Bancorp — over the past year to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger. The platform told banks that customer information could be used to offer services which would involve incentivising customers to spend more time on Messenger.

A day later, Facebook denied that it is “actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data.” Instead, the company said that it’s simply looking to partner with banks and credit card companies to offer customer service through a chatbot on Messenger and help users manage their bank accounts. The company said that the original report by WSJ overlooked the fact that similar features already exist on Messenger with American Express, Mastercard, and PayPal integrations.

While the WSJ report indicated that Facebook is asking banks for financial information and banks are concerned about privacy of their customers and hence wary of Facebook — which is still reeling from the historic Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data of 87 million Americans was harvested without their consent. Facebook said WSJ blew the proposed partnerships way out of proportion.

“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.” Facebook spokesperson Elisabeth Diana told TechCrunch.

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Nevertheless, Facebook’s shares climbed 3.5% after the announcement, marking the biggest gain since it lost $123 billion in market value after its earnings call last month.

In India, Facebook-backed WhatsApp is beta testing a payments service which also allows users to check their bank accounts via the messaging service, similar to what Facebook is proposing in the US — customer interaction with their bank accounts to assist account management.

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