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Facebook denies it’s harvesting users’ banking data for targeted advertising

Facebook has denied that it is asking banks to hand over financial transaction data in order to better target adverts at its two billion users.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the social network had requested that banks share financial data in exchange for users.

But in a statement released overnight, a Facebook spokesperson denied that the company was “actively asking financial services companies companies for financial transaction data”.

“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 spokesperson said.

“The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone – and it’s completely opt-in.”

Facebook said that the data would not be used for anything “beyond enabling these types of experiences – not for advertising or anything else”.

The US tech giant launched a chatbot with Citibank in Singapore in March, allowing customers to check their balance and speak to a customers services representative.

Facebook has invested a considerable amount of money in chatbots on the basis that they could represent the next frontier for customer service. But uptake has been underwhelming. The company shelved its virtual assistant M earlier this year.

The furore over Facebook’s work with the banking industry comes as the company continues to reel from the fall out of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In July, it received the highest fine possible from the UK’s privacy watchdog under outgoing data protection rules. At the end of the month, its share price fell $11bn in a single day, after it revealed that its userbase had started shrinking in Europe.