It has taken nearly six years but Facebook’s Personal Finance Tracking Patent was finally approved. The company filed for the patent back in 2013. While this is an important development, it is not the first time that Facebook is pursuing patents in the finance sector. It is estimated that the company has pursued over 120 patents in the field thus far. Besides that, it has managed to secure a number of patents relating to digital currencies; these were secured even before it announced the launch of Facebook Libra.

The Details of the Patent

Facebook envisions a system where users can connect their financial details such as checking accounts, credit card details, savings accounts, and others. With the tool, users are able to track and manage their finances with ease. The tool would also provide a breakdown of various transactions by category including clothes, foods, bills, and other daily essentials.

An interesting spin is that the tool would allow the company to compare the spending behavior of one user with others in the same demographics. This demographic is picked by analyzing social media data such as location, interests, occupation, and other details. This way, one could hypothetically be able to tell where they need to adjust their lifestyle.

Another interesting feature is that the tool would allow one to come up with hypothetical scenarios. For instance, if you were anticipating a move to Paris, you may select the spending habits and characteristics of those in your demographic living in Paris to anticipate and plan for your budget before you get there.

Why this is Important

In light of the Facebook Libra project, this patent filing is very important. One of the main concerns that regulators have about Facebook is that it will have too much control over user data. The company has already been accused of mishandling user data that helped to sway public opinion during elections.

With this patent and the Libra coin, the company would not need to rely on third parties to understanding the spending habits of people. This could potentially make the company one of the most powerful in the financial world. It already holds great sway over the marketing world. Some might be worried that this might be too much control in the hands of one firm.

The patent filing will also create competitive pressure for other tech firms to move into the financial sector. Tech and finance are already quite integrated but such a patent filing combined with the Facebook Libra project could help to blur the lines further.

No Assurance Facebook Will Use It

While Facebook may have succeeded with this patent filing, there is no assurance it will act on it. Major firms file patents all the time, which they proceed to sit on for years. Sometimes, they do it to gain royalties from companies that may come up with similar products down the line. However, it should serve as an important reminder of how important data has become. Large companies nowadays are always looking for ways that are more creative to mine data from the masses.

Image Source: Flickr / Christian Zimmermann 

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