Facebook has spent the better part of the year answering difficult questions about its handling of user data. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it has attempted to show users, regulators, and politicians that it is taking privacy seriously and that it is working to ensure that a similar misuse of its data does not occur again. It has made promises and public apologies, and publicized misinformation campaigns when they are discovered.
But Facebook’s core business—advertising— is still reliant on collecting user data. And the company knows that this data is also enormously valuable to potential partners. On Monday The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had asked banks to “share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances.” Facebook is hoping that it can use the data to build a “platform where people buy and sell goods and services,” seemingly a combination of Craigslist, Venmo, and Amazon. The plan also appears to be an attempt to monetize Messenger, Facebook’s popular, but unprofitable, chat app.
Some of the banks have balked, given the privacy concerns involved and the company’s poor track record on protecting privacy. But the move does tell us two important things. The first is that, following last month’s $100 billion stock dive, the company is seriously looking at ways to monetize popular platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The second is that, despite the fallout from Cambridge Analytica, the company’s cavalier attitude toward privacy persists.