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Businesses Privacy Social Networks The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

Should Social Media Affect Your Creditworthiness? 344

Posted by samzenpus
from the circle-of-credit-worthy-friends dept.
theodp writes "Betabeat's Adrianne Jeffries takes a look at the questionable young science of using social media to evaluate creditworthiness. As banks start nosing around Facebook and Twitter, Jeffries explains, the wrong friends might just sink your credit. 'Let's take a trip with the Ghost of Christmas Future,' she suggests. 'The year is 2016, and George Bailey, a former banker, now a part-time consultant, is looking for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for a co-op in the super-hot neighborhood of Bedford Falls (BeFa). He has never missed a loan payment and has zero credit card debt. He submits his information to the online-only PotterBank.com, but halfway through the application process, the website asks for his Facebook login. Then his Twitter. Then LinkedIn. The cartoon loan officer avatar begins to frown as the algorithm discovers Mr. Bailey's taxi-driving buddy Ernie was once turned down by PotterBank for a loan; then it starts browsing his daughter Zuzu's photo album, 'Saturday Nite!' And what was this tweet from a few years back: "FML, about to jump off a goddamn bridge"?' So, could George piggyback his way to a better credit score by adding Larry and Sergey to his Google+ Circles?"
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Should Social Media Affect Your Creditworthiness?

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  • No, obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pjc50 (161200) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:11AM (#38381996)

    And in the EU there are data protection and privacy laws that could be used to deter this kind of thing.

    • How about these banks kiss my private shiny ass!
  • by ciaohound (118419) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:13AM (#38382018)

    At least George has Clarence as an angel investor.

  • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay&gmail,com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:14AM (#38382024) Homepage Journal

    Everybody that uses social networks have connections to somebody that gone broke, or made bad comments on the past. That fictional bank wouldn't be able to lend money. Thus wouldn't generate any revenue.

    Searching social networks will probably happen on the real world, but you can bet the information the banks will gather will be way saner than that, and they won't jump to conclusion that fast.

    Now, about the real problem. Why is everybody so concerned about their credit worthness?

    • We're concerned about our credit worthiness because the banks, other lenders, employers, etc are.

      I, for one, liked having a 3.85% APR on my credit card before the economy went down the crapper.

      • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:53AM (#38382278)
        I paid off my credit. I'll need to get more to buy a house, but that's it. I'm never touching credit cards, unsecured loans etc again. Paying them off was a PITA I don't want to go through again.

        Technically, I am more well off than most of the western world, simply by having no money and no debts. It is the very definition of "wealthy" nowadays.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Tastecicles (1153671)

          mod parent up (I would if I hadn't already commented). People get pissed off when they show me their shiny new laptop they got on finance, and I'm like "Well, you see this four hundred Pound Toshiba? I own it, lock stock and fucking barrel."

          How did I manage that? Hard work and sensible spending. I have NEVER had a loan in my life, I don't WANT a loan ever. Hell, I don't even have a bank account. Everything I see in my home and in my garage, I OWN.

          Credit breeds complacency and laziness. OK so when banks go u

    • by Froggels (1724218) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:24AM (#38382080)
      Now, about the real problem. Why is everybody so concerned about their credit worthness?
      You must be from Europe. Over the past 20 years in the USA (and I think Canada) a person's credit worthiness is everything. Both positive as well as negative information is reported and not having a decent credit score can negatively impact your quality of life. It is not at all uncommon for potential employers to investigate prospective employees' credit scores. As an American I find these increasingly intrusive trends in the US quite disturbing as it all seems to somehow fall under employers' rights to "free speech" as everything seems to be a "public record" these days. What the US needs are EU style data protection laws.
      • by BMoore60610 (1749398) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:43AM (#38382204)

        Now, about the real problem. Why is everybody so concerned about their credit worthness? You must be from Europe. Over the past 20 years in the USA (and I think Canada) a person's credit worthiness is everything. Both positive as well as negative information is reported and not having a decent credit score can negatively impact your quality of life. (...) What the US needs are EU style data protection laws.

        You don't have to be from Europe to see the lies behind the current system of credit in America. The whole thing is designed so that people must have debt in order to beg the banks for more debt. It's absolutely crazy. If we teach our children to save for the things they need (and do so ourselves) we could end this horrible economy for good. Sadly people are too intoxicated by instant gratification (i.e. selfishness) for that to ever happen on a grand scale. What the US needs is a bat-symbol-in-the-sky sized CLUE.

        • What bothers me is that they seem to be looking for ways to lower credit scores of people who have good credit scores. It seems obvious to me that this has nothing to do with borrowing and repayment, as they want to keep linking in items that are not related to borrowing and payment history or income. They made a run at using driving records to contribute to credit history, and now social networking.

          Their statisticians claim these are relevant, but if they are, why doesn't borrowing and payment history re

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:27AM (#38382102)

      I suppose we could break it down into two questions:

      1. Is using social-network data to evaluate creditworthiness actually accurate?

      2. If it is accurate, do we think doing so is a good or bad thing?

      Your point is about #1, but I think probably there is a way, given good enough statistical analysis, to extract a good predictive signal, so the real long-term question is not whether it works, but whether we should let it be used.

  • I Wonder what if you don't actually have any of those accounts. For me I don't have twitter or linkedin accout at all.
    • Re:I Wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

      by White Flame (1074973) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:41AM (#38382190)

      Facebook has "shadow accounts" of people it's datamined, but have not actually opened a facebook account with. So even if you don't have an account, your friends & family talking about you, or any data it harvests that contain references to you, are stored there.

      I would suspect that Facebook's sharing of information with legal authorities includes shadow accounts, and if banks or credit reporting agencies strike a deal with Facebook to get at "indicator" information about people, they'd be able to view shadow accounts as well.

      • Re:I Wonder (Score:4, Funny)

        by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:53AM (#38382280)

        I would suspect that Facebook's sharing of information with legal authorities includes shadow accounts, and if banks or credit reporting agencies strike a deal with Facebook to get at "indicator" information about people, they'd be able to view shadow accounts as well.

        Good point. In Soviet Russia, facebook account has you.

      • I know 3 people named Steve Wright. How does Facebook know which one I'm referring to at any particular time.

        And how many John Smith's are there?

        Now for sure, if I send a facebook invite to one of them, then Facebook have an email address. But that's about it for data they can collect about people with no account.

        Oh, and facial recognition in photos won't do it. iPhoto has facial recognition, but I'd estimate it's suggestions are only about 60% right, even after all the training it's had from my confirmatio

        • I know 3 people named Steve Wright. How does Facebook know which one I'm referring to at any particular time.

          That is *exactly* the problem that data mining techniques solve (or at least give reasonable guesses).

    • by Xugumad (39311)

      I'm frequently entertained by the fact that Googling "Facebook " gives three links to Facebook, none of them me.

      I'd probably be less entertained if my namesakes were not really cool, interesting people with great careers.

  • I mean, after all, you're borrowing their money. You don't have a right to it.

    • by Sique (173459)

      You are not borrowing it yet, if you just ask them. So they don't have any right to any data about you yet either.

    • You're not borrowing their money - they don't have any. What you're purchasing (you pay through interest) is a book entry. Credit is fraud. But it's not fraud for the simple reason that it's done through a bank.

  • Lolwut? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ToiletBomber (2269914) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:15AM (#38382032)
    "halfway through the application process, the website asks for his Facebook login. Then his Twitter. Then LinkedIn." If any site of a supposed financial institution were to start asking for my logins for any site other than it's own, frankly I would run from that site like the plague.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      This. Don't expect privacy when you willingly give up your passwords.

    • by Pragmatix (688158)
      It isn't so far fetched. I just recently completed some refinancing paperwork for my mortgage, and they want some pretty excruciating detail. I was surprised to see they wanted bank/investment account numbers and asset details. I care way more about that stuff then any facebook data.
    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      I think the writer meant to say, "the website asks for his (Facebook|Twitter|LinkedIn) user name" and probably should have said "A dialog box asks him to authorize PotterBank to connect to his accounts and access his posts, etc."
  • ...as long as not using social media does not affect my credit worthiness.
  • by ard (115977) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:28AM (#38382108)

    The company iZettle, which provides "personal payment" via credit cards (chip reader that plugs into phone+app),
    requires not only traditional autentication and a bank account - but also your facebook profile with an established social network. I.e. you must have friends as a voucher for your identity.

    No facebook, no service. True, they dont base credit reports on your profile, but I find it a disturbing development where traditional identification and bank account are not enough (especially here in Sweden where we already are tracked since birth with the personnummer supercookie).

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:29AM (#38382110)

    This isn't going to be particularly pleasant to hear, but ultimately these sorts of activities are all about finding indicators of your likeliness to default on your credit, in much the same way that indicators are used when providing insurance to evaluate someone's likelihood of needing to make a claim and price them accordingly. So having these extra indicators isn't by itself necessarily bad. It's not in the lender's interests to come up with bad indicators. To stay competitive, they have to strike a good balance between covering their ass and giving you a better rate than the next lender. So ultimately they're trying to find out something about your creditworthiness (as a probabilistic measure of default) that is more likely to be right than wrong.

    The real philosophical issue is, if non-financial indicators are used to evaluate our creditworthiness, then are we being unfairly induced to make changes to our lifestyle to accomodate our need for credit?

  • Depend on what you put in a public way. From the start in G+ you had circles to choose with who share some things, so giving your id to a bank, unless you put it in your Friends circle, won't disclose anything that you didnt made public. I think that Facebook and Twitter enable to restrict the audience of some posts, but could remain plenty of old public things (and, of course, there is the problem of resharing somewhat private things)

    The problem with Larry and Sergei is not G+, is plain google (or any othe
  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:38AM (#38382172)
    They've dressed the issue up as something hypothetical, when in fact it already happens. It's just not banks that are doing it

    Insurance companies are infamously snoopy and manipulative. They'll look at anything and everything they can possibly get their hands on, legal or not, to analyze your risks. I'd bet serious money that insurers already pry in social networks.

    And they've managed acts of regulatory capture that would make even banks and defense contractors blush. Here in North Carolina you're not even allowed to have a driver's license unless you have car insurance. If you don't actually have a car that's tough shit; you can't even drive rentals or borrowed cars.
    • Insurance companies are infamously snoopy and manipulative. They'll look at anything and everything they can possibly get their hands on, legal or not, to analyze your risks. I'd bet serious money that insurers already pry in social networks.

      For close to a decade it's been well-known in motorsports circles that car insurers will snoop around on motorsport forums to see if any vehicle they insure is driven in any kind of competition. There are a few well-documented cases of people having their insurance cut off this way. There have also been rumors of them sending agents to events.

      Keep in mind that pretty much all insurers already exclude anything that happens in competition, and that you would have already paid into competition insurance, so ev

    • by yabos (719499)
      I'd argue they aren't searching for actual risks, but excuses to charge you more. Insurance rates, especially auto insurance here in Ontario Canada are way over priced and the insurance companies look for any and all excuses to both charge you more and not pay out when you make a claim.
    • is available usually very cheaply. That would meet the insurance requirement.

  • by ewg (158266) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:44AM (#38382208)

    Please mod me up, I want to refinance!

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Well, we can't give you a loan on your Slashdot karma, but if we just put down - this'll be our little secret, just you and me - that you've got 2 million reddit karma - it's okay, reddit karma doesn't mean anything, it's just an arbitrary thing we have to work around, you could get that karma for real easily enough - there, you're good to go for your eight trillion dollar home improvement loan to build a moonbase.

  • by realsilly (186931) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:47AM (#38382234)

    Frankly, I think Social media sites should not be used to judge someone for credit worthiness, or for jobs or for marking someone's abilities to perform work. People have lives that are not always accurately reflected from social media sites.

    People do things in there personal time that is there personal time. This should not be used against you.

    Conversely, people who don't post on social media sites should not be scrutinized either for their lack of personal info on the Web.

    Credit worthiness is based on one's abilities to pay their debts incurred. Credit rating companies already provide this info.

    While I think the way Credit agencies horde data on an individual is appalling, it does have the ability to show patterns in people and their spending.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      You let your insurance company use your credit rating to assume how safe of a driver you are.

      You have a Credit score of 650? You must be a maniac that sideswipes people for fun, You must be charged an extra 60% on your insurance.

      Everyone knows that is raging BS, yet none of you are outraged by it or will get off your butts to complain about it.

    • by Inda (580031)
      The facade I create at work takes just as much effort as doing the actual work.

      If only they knew...
  • Search for AC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:51AM (#38382264) Homepage

    Dear bank, sorry, I can't give you the login directly, privacy you know. But (wink, wink) you can find them - just Google for my nickname "Anonymous"...

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:53AM (#38382282) Homepage

    You give it your professional ones not your personal ones.

    Honestly what idiot is posting everything professional and private to the same profile?

    • People who don't need to have a false persona for work. That is, I grant you, a minority. But it makes for a much happier life for those that are in that position.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you have a credit history, the bank is going to use that to determine whether to give you a loan or not. Paid off all your debts? Make more money than you spend? Never had a late payment? Banks will be falling over themselves to lend you money. Defaulted on everything? Bankruptcy? You're going to have some high interest rates.

    What I see here is a tool banks and credit unions could potentially use to inform them about people without a credit score. Maybe I haven't had a credit card or mortgage before, but

  • Makes no sense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Securityemo (1407943) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:56AM (#38382314) Journal
    The second this takes off, there's going to be a business in optimizing people's social profiles - if nothing else, the things you should have/not have on your profile will spread through word of mouth and experience. The reason facebook et al is used for evaluating people is the idea that people might not "keep up appearances" there, right? But if it impacts your personal finances or job prospects most people would just tighten up out of fear. It's self-defeating. It's also dreadful since it'd presumably lead to people making themselves out to be oily cookie-cutter smilies for financial benefit, conformity of the worst kind.
  • NO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbope (130292) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @09:08AM (#38382438)

    Absolutely not. I'll tell you why: There is currently no way to verify who you say you are on social networks, hell, some of them you can sign up with a fake, made-up name... all you need is a valid email address which can be anything. Oh, and that email address can be webmail, which also does not attempt to verify your identity. This makes it incredibly easy to set up fake accounts or profiles in someone else's name.

    Absolutely NONE of these services have a way to accurately verify your identity. They don't even try for the most part. This alone means that searching for Bob Smith's facebook page does not guarantee that I find the real Bob Smith's facebook page. Or that anything posted or linked to Bob's profile has any accuracy whatsoever.

    Stuff can become attached or linked to your social media profile, even without your knowledge. Character assassination anyone? Someone you know (or even don't know) can take a picture, post it online and tag it with your name, and there is absolutely no way to verify who is in the picture. I can take a picture of my cat taking a dump and post it, tag it with a friends name, and this will then get linked to their profile.

    Do you see the problem with this? If a prospective employer or a credit service wants to search for my name on social media sites fine, but I expect they will be smart about actually using unverifiable information to determine my credit or job worthiness. The mere act that they would use unverifiable data to back up a decision on something important like a job position or a credit score, tells a lot about the company. Luckily I live in the EU where this sort of thing is not widespread and we actually have strong personal data protection laws.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @09:55AM (#38382980)

      That problem suggests its own solution: poison the well by pre-emptively polluting Facebook etc. with fake profiles carrying garbage (but non-specific, non-damaging) information. As an upside, it'd devalue the database for other data-mining efforts too.

  • One constant of humanity is their ever willingness to look for any metric with which to divide themselves into lessers and greaters.

  • After all, Facebook is already selling that info.

    You providing your profile information for free is probably a Facebook TOS violation.

  • by MirthScout (247854) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @09:25AM (#38382630)

    "but halfway through the application process, the website asks for his Facebook login. Then his Twitter. Then LinkedIn."

    This seems like a fair data point for determining credit risk. Anyone stupid enough to actually enter this information is definitely a credit risk! The same goes for employers or potential employers who are starting to ask for this; if you are dumb enough to give them login credentials to your accounts then you are a security risk.

    As for the rest of the article, I don't think the information on your social media sites is the least bit reliable for determining credit risk so financial institutions should not be using it.

  • Oh no... (Score:4, Funny)

    by bradorsomething (527297) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:02AM (#38383068)
    Quick, someone look up Kevin Bacon's credit score!

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