Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Social media wants your bank info. What could go wrong? -- Aug. 9, 2018 column


Someday you may click on Facebook and see your checking account balance.

The social media giant has talked with several large U.S. banks about getting their data on where their customers shop with debit and credit cards, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why? So you’ll spend even more time on social media.

“Facebook increasingly wants to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, besides connecting with friends,” the Journal said. Naturally Google and 
Amazon also want in on your bank action.

Facebook denied it’s actively asking banks for customer data, saying in a statement, “Like many online companies with commerce businesses, we partner with banks and credit card companies to offer services like customer chat or account management.”

Facebook also insists it won’t use bank information to target advertising or marketing. 

People would use the Facebook Messenger app to communicate with their banks and make other transactions. More than 1.2 billion people use Messenger.

“The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone – and it’s completely opt-in,” the statement said. “A critical part of these partnerships is keeping people’s information safe and secure.”

So is seeing your checking account balance on social media convenient or creepy?  

Your answer may depend on your generation. If you’re a baby boomer like I am, born between 1946 and 1964, you may find it creepy. We still believe there’s something called privacy and we ought to be in control of our personal information – although holding onto this idea in 2018 is like grasping Jello.

Facebook’s track record for safeguarding information is hardly inspiring. It’s still recovering from the fallout of 87 million users having their information improperly used by Cambridge Analytica in 2016. But banks and credit card companies have been breached as well.

I’d rather stash my cash under a mattress than trust social media to safeguard details of my personal finances.

Did I say cash? Cash is quaint. So last century.

One in four adults say they rarely or never carry cash, and the number jumps to one in three for millennials – those born between roughly 1981 and 1996, a survey by Capital One found in March. Many millennials consider paying with cash “inconvenient,” the company reported.  

And if you’re a post-millennial or member of Generation Z, born in 1997 and after, you use your devices all the time and have grown up paying by phone and plastic.

Teens use cash for only about 6 percent of their transactions, according to Current, a company that offers a debit card for teens. Parents load up the debit card to give their kids their allowance. 

There’s no doubt shifting attitudes toward money are affecting us all. Major banks have closed thousands of branches in recent years as more people choose to bank online, although some smaller banks have opened branches. Cashless restaurants and shops have proliferated.

Which brings us back to your checking account in the digital age.

For millennials and Gen Zers, seeing your bank balance on social media may seem a convenient no-brainer.

Millennials like the idea of using Facebook to access and manage their money – or they did in 2015 when Capital One conducted a survey. About 45 percent of millennials said then they’d use Facebook, more than other social media platforms.

Gen Z may be especially receptive to keeping tabs on their bottom line on social media. They may not remember pay phones, but many remember the Great Recession. They saw family members lose jobs and struggle financially, and it made an impact.

Studies show Gen Zers are more likely than millennials to save money, so they may want to check their balances often because they know how easy it is to overspend when paying with plastic and their phones.

But would young people think it cool to do their banking on Facebook or on another platform? They’ve been quitting Facebook for Instagram and Snapchat, leaving Facebook with a demographic no marketer prizes.

As The Guardian, a British newspaper, put it: “Is Facebook for old people? Over 55s flock in as the young leave.”

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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