Have you ever wanted to be able to pay your power bill or your cable bill using your Facebook account? No? How about giving one of your friends that $10 you owe them for losing a bet you made? What about giving Facebook MORE access to personal, highly sensitive information regarding your life?
Looks like Facebook wants to make these things a very real possibility. In fact, it’s already been done, with internal beta for Australia’s Commonwealth Bank. They have been testing the system out since March of this year, and plan on rolling it out to customers of the bank sometime in 2012. So if you’re an Aussie, and you have an account with Australia’s Commonwealth Bank, you get to be the world’s guinea pig!
Essentially what Facebook has done is figure out a way to gain more insight to your life, thereby making your data vastly more useful to potential advertisers. “Man, Eric sure does spend a lot of money at Frank’s Barbershop; let’s show him some advertisements for 10% off a haircut for new customers at Ted’s Barbershop!” Since I love getting my hair cut so often, and have a nearly infinite budget for this activity, I’m highly more likely to click this ad, and switch my barbershop from Frank’s to Ted’s. Ted’s money on that advertisement is well spent.
However, given Facebook’s prior history with security, along with their seemingly insatiable appetite to gather and keep your personal information, this seems like an awful idea for the end-user. Granted, we do not know what information will be given to Facebook in order to allow it to interact with the banking institution, but it seems likely the very least of the information it requires will be your routing and account numbers. Which, if gotten a hold of by the wrong hands, could be pretty devastating for you, or in my case, either Frank or Ted? The worst case scenario I could think about would be giving Facebook your online banking username and password. Given those items, even a person with extremely limited knowledge of financial institutions would be able to empty your account in a matter of seconds.
With all that concern aside, the question I ask is…why? Are people really asking for this type of functionality? Why is Facebook trying to integrate with its users’ financial activity? Why can’t I just go to the power company’s website to pay my power bill? Or to the cable company’s website? Why can’t I just give Joe the ten dollars I owe him for not believing he could successfully complete the cinnamon challenge? Everyone I’ve talked to about this and every comment about this on the internet I’ve seen has been a collective “Oh Hell No“. I agree there. Facebook is great for what Facebook is: Staying social. My money should not be something social. I like my money, and my financial transactions right where they are now, where only my bank and I can see them. How about you?