x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Banking on Facebook?

If Facebook is seeking to revive its popularity, it should think twice before moving into the post-crisis financial sector

Illustration by Mathew Kurian
Illustration by Mathew Kurian

Facebook has long been a place to connect with friends and families, share pictures (usually of cats) and catch up with gossip. But soon, the social network may enable us to do much more. The company is seeking regulatory approval to launch a range of emoney services, initially in Europe. If approved, the site could be used as a current account of sorts to store virtual money and pay for goods via a process known as “passporting”. In addition, it would also seek to introduce remittance services in other parts of the world.

But the crucial question is, will those who use Facebook trust it sufficiently with their money as well as their precious personal details? Many users have expressed concern about how the social network treats the data it collects and who it shares that information with. Last year, the site faced considerable public backlash over revelations that it turned over user data to Prism, the National Security Agency’s clandestine internet surveillance programme.

Doubtless, Facebook is hoping this new service will invigorate its user base, which is haemorrhaging among young people. And yet if Facebook is seeking popularity, should it do so by attaching itself to banking which, post-crash, is not exactly a popular profession?