Facebook announced a new feature Tuesday that allows friends to send money to one another through its Messenger app. But that comes at the risk of sharing even more details of your personal life with the social network.
The process is simple. Facebook added a money symbol ($) sign at the bottom of the screen, right above the keyboard. Tap the $ symbol and enter an amount. Then add your debit card, and hit send.
To accept money from a friend, you’ll open the conversation, add your debit card information, and off it goes. Facebook says the funds will be transferred “right away,” although it adds that your bank may not make the money available to you for one to three business days, “just as it does with other deposits.”
The service will be rolling out to U.S. users “over the coming months,” the company said.
Message Your Spending To Facebook
Facebook released Messenger in 2011 as a dedicated messaging app distinct from its primary social service. While it’s proven very popular—it usually tops the free-app listings in both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store—Messenger also has a secret life as a data fiend that gathers information about how people use it, when they use it, where they use it, whether they spend more time in landscape or portrait mode, and much more.
With all that in mind, using Messenger’s mobile payments might reasonably give you pause on data-privacy and security grounds. Facebook appears to store your debit-card information by default, although you can remove it in Messenger settings.
Facebook presumably also stores a record of your transactions, since it’s hard to imagine anyone getting comfortable with a service that wouldn’t let them review who they’ve sent money to and whether the recipient got it.
That’s another rich source of data Facebook would undoubtedly love to mine for further insights into your personal and business relationships. It’s also information hackers might find useful should they compromise your account.
I reached out to Facebook for some answers, and here’s what a spokeswoman told me about the security of that financial information:
We use an encryption between the consumer and Facebook at all times and encrypt all card information when it is stored. We value the trust consumers place in Facebook and take numerous precautions to prevent unauthorized access to the financial information saved on Facebook. This information is kept on secure servers with multiple layers of hardware and software protection.
Facebook hasn’t yet gotten back to me on the question of what transactions it stores and how it will make use of that information. I’ll update once it does. [Update: Facebook says you will be able to view your Messenger transaction records.]
Facebook isn’t the first social network to let users send money to one another. Last November, Snapchat unveiled its own service for money transfers called Snapcash. Asian companies such as the Chinese social network WeChat also offer similar transfers.
Lead photo by Keith Cooper