Several banks have recently cut off the flow of their information temporarily to some websites and mobile applications that aggregate consumer financial data, according to The Wall Street Journal.
While banks have every right to cut their data off from aggregators, could doing so negatively affect investors and advisors?
Data aggregators – like Mint, Quicken and CircleBlack – give consumers the ability to easily and accurately view all of their financial information in one place to help them make more informed financial decisions.
“I think there is a balance of clients’ rights of information and clients’ desire to have their information secure,” John Michel, CEO of CircleBlack, told ThinkAdvisor. “And I think, as an industry, we need to continue to make sure we’re providing the best security possible, but in the end, clients are going to choose applications that provide them with time-saving, ease, convenience, etc.”
According to a spokesman for Wells Fargo, “there was no deliberate or proactive effort on our part to block or hinder any of the aggregators’ accesses to our systems at any point in recent past.”
It’s possible that customers’ flow of information may have been “inadvertently” and “temporarily” affected during a standard update to Wells Fargo’s security protocols, the spokesperson said.
“There was never any proactive, deliberate attempt to restrict access,” he told ThinkAdvisor. “Some of these security protocols may have inadvertently effected individual customers from getting this data.”
As part of Wells Fargo’s ongoing efforts to make adjustments and improvements, “something may have caused one of the aggregator servers as they were doing the screen scraping,” or data transfer, “it may have caused the scrape to break because it may have seen something it wasn’t familiar with.”
JPMorgan and Bank of America did not respond to requests for comment.
According to the Journal, banks worry that the aggregator sites may threaten consumers’ account security and the performance of bank websites.
Michel, however, doesn’t see “any evidence of that.”
“I do agree that if I am a provider of a service that I need to make sure the consumer data is secure,” Michel said, adding later, “There have been a number of break-ins at different companies through data – as far as I know, none of them have been through any sort of data aggregation service. I think we all as an industry owe it to the end American consumer to both provide the best security possible and the services that those customers want.”
Banks have every right to be worried about customer data, said Luke Wentz, IT security officer at Orion, a firm that creates tech solutions for advisors.
“I think banks should be concerned about the security of assets,” Wentz told ThinkAdvisor. “As soon as you let someone else access your data, that opens up another avenue for hackers and attackers to get at that data.”
While Wells Fargo has “no immediate concerns” regarding the security of data aggregators, the firm does have more broad concerns.
“We have expressed concern to others that customers should have the ability to access third-party servers without exposing their username and password,” which most third-party aggregators require, the Wells Fargo spokesman said.