One of Canada’s largest banks appears alongside Silicon Valley technology firms in a New York Times investigation into Facebook privacy violations, in a piece published on Tuesday evening.
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is said to have been given special permissions around the private messages of Facebook users. The New York Times obtained documents generated by Facebook in 2017 that were intended to track partnerships. It details how Facebook arranged for its partners to bypass privacy protections to more closely integrate their platforms, including access to view the friends’ list of Facebook users and access aspects of their private messages.
Here’s the paragraph that mentions RBC:
“Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show. Facebook acknowledged that it did not consider any of those three companies to be service providers. Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them. A Royal Bank of Canada spokesman disputed that the bank had any such access.”
At present, RBC has a verified Facebook page with more than half a million followers. It’s not the first time that RBC has come up in a Facebook investigation lately. An inquiry held at a British parliamentary committee earlier this month also mentioned the bank, as reported in Maclean’s. RBC’s partnership with Facebook goes back to at least 2013, when it allowed users to send Interac email transfers through Facebook Messenger.
The report says that RBC stopped allowing online transactions via Facebook in 2015 after the social network made changes to its network’s privacy settings. Internal emails reveal Facebook executives debated providing user data access to large corporate customers like RBC. But a RBC spokesperson told Maclean’s in an email that “it never had a minimum marketing spend or target agreement with Facebook.”
IT World Canada has asked both Facebook and RBC for comment on the matter, but did not receive a response at time of publication. We’ll update this story with any statements or interviews.