Is Your Bank Data Safe on Social Media?

An illustration of banking on social media messaging apps

bijendra / Getty Images

Most people would never post their private banking data on the public-facing side of social media platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. But, some banks are starting to roll out customer service chat on Facebook Messenger and other third-party messaging apps, which people might not think so closely about.

This raises serious concerns about cybersecurity in banking and whether or not communicating on these platforms is safe and who exactly has access to the information that you’re sharing with the bank.

You should always follow the best security practices for mobile banking whenever you are accessing your banking information online.

Facebook Aggressively Seeking Relationships With Banks

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is courting big banks to partner with them on customer service, using its messenger app, and to transmit data about financial transactions through the app. It’s reached out to Citibank, American Express, and PayPal among other institutions.

Facebook has reportedly asked these institutions to share information including credit card transactions and checking-account balances with them when people opt-in to use these services. But is this a risk for cybersecurity in banking? Or is it just business as usual. Let’s take a look at the details.

Why Banking via Facebook Messenger Can Carry Risk

Many people think that Facebook’s product is ads. But that’s not true at all. Facebook’s product is a combination of the user and the data users bring to the platform. They then bundle and sell this data to advertisers to create customer profiles that can target nearly any attribute – from whether you love Australian Shepherds to if you like to cook. This isn’t a terrible thing in and of itself – magazines, newspapers, and network television all operate on basically the same business model. In addition according to Reuters - a Facebook spokesperson said that the company “could see some financial information from users if they choose to opt-in, but did not use it for ‘advertising or anything else.’”

Facebook Data Privacy Issues

But we know from recent experience that Facebook isn’t always great at keeping their data safe. After all, up to 87 million Facebook users experienced a data breach in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that ended up with Facebook testifying before the United States Congress in 2018. The problem is that Facebook Messenger is convenient and EASY. Most of the time it’s way more convenient than sitting on hold on the phone. But is it worth the risk?

Questions You Should Ask About Any Messaging App

Many banks are now using chat apps as part of their customer service platform – not just Facebook Messenger, but other chat apps as well. One of the things that you may not know about bank chat apps is that the technology can be something they rent or outsource from an outside vendor. 

This isn’t usually a problem, but the question to always ask is “who has this information, and what will they use it for?”

If you don’t want your information leaving your trusted financial institution, this is THE question to ask before using a chat app – whether you are using Facebook Messenger or another chat app.

Ultimately though, most banks are careful with your information, so you have to decide what risk you are willing to tolerate.

You Have to Decide What Risk You Are Willing to Tolerate

I personally use chat everywhere I can for customer service – including banking. It’s so much more convenient than phone calls or driving to my local banking branch. And I really value convenience. I also know that it is in the bank’s best interest to keep my money safe and secure. Data breaches are expensive and cause a ton of bad press.

With that being said, I still prefer a native chat app that is hosted on the bank’s website or app over the Facebook Messenger experience – simply because Facebook already knows enough about me. I’m not sure if they need to know anything else. Cyber Security in banking is a serious issue and one that we all need to pay attention to in order to keep our data and our money safe. Another precaution you should do is to setup up mobile banking alerts to be notified of any unusual or suspicious activity.