12 August 2018

Africa: Now Facebook Seeking Bank Clients' Financial Data

Even before the dust settles on its Cambridge Analytica mega scandal in which data belonging to millions of users was breached, American social media giant Facebook is back with yet another controversial data-sharing proposal.

The embattled company is reportedly asking American banks to share their customer's financial information including card transactions and account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users.

Sources who confided in the Wall street Journal said the California-based firm has already approached major American banks including J.P Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and US Bank with the proposal.

Reports also suggested that a deeper integration of the messaging app with bank's systems would give Facebook another way of nudging users to shop on its platform.

Facebook, however, denies that it is "actively" asking banks for financial data.

It says it is "simply" looking to partner with credit card companies to offer customer service through a chatbot in Messenger, its texting app, or help users manage their accounts within the app.

"Account-linking enables people to receive real-time updates in Facebook Messenger where they can keep track of their transaction data like account balances, receipts, and shipping updates," Facebook said in a statement.

"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 maintains that the proposal is purely meant to improve customer experience, but JP Morgan and US Bank have already denounced plans to share their clients' data with Facebook or any other technological platform.

However, the proposal appears to be facing less opposition in Africa where Nigeria-based multinational lender, United Bank of Africa (UBA) has unveiled an e-chat solution -- an Artificial Intelligence-powered chat bot that allows customers to conduct basic banking transactions in 14 of the group's 20 African markets.

Dubbed "LEO," the e-chat service which rides on Messenger enables users to open banks accounts and check mini statements, buy airtime and send money to other local accounts.

"Consumers spend 80 per cent of their time in three apps; Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube," said Emeke E. Iweriebor, Group executive director and CEO UBA East and Southern Africa when the solution was launched in Kenya last month.

"In line with our lifestyle banking strategy, we are bringing our banking services to the apps where consumers spend most of their time, while providing the most intuitive and elegant way to interact with the bank."

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