Jobs do it. Moms do it. Wives of former college flames do it. And now, credit agencies are getting in on the Facebook stalking game. Which is worrisome.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the practice of combing through social media profiles by entities assessing a person's creditworthiness is pretty limited thus far; it mostly applies to small businesses seeking loans or lines of credit from non-traditional lenders or people with no credit history or bank accounts. In the case of small businesses, the practice is designed to suss out public goodwill for a company. If people on Twitter can't shut up about how awesome Company X is, then Company X is seen as more creditworthy by its potential social media-attuned lender.
However. However! With this sort of thing, the public has a right to be wary, as this is the sort of thing that can lead to uncomfortable mission creep. Remember when Facebook was just a fun way to connect with friends and now Facebook somehow magically knows that last night you spent hours looking at cheese boards on Amazon? Or how, a couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that Facebook scans private messages for messages of products, so it's better able to sell your data to advertisers who want to target you? Ad blockers are easy enough to install, but what about when employers snoop around social media profiles before even considering calling you for an interview?
And then there's this:
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumer-reporting companies such as Experian and Equifax must verify that a borrower's credit history is accurate if a consumer disputes the information. However, companies that use social media in their lending decisions don't have to verify that information since they don't provide it to third parties like a reporting agency does, said Maneesha Mithal, the associate director of the FTC's division of privacy and identity protection.
"There are privacy concerns. People don't understand the implications or why they may be considered undesirable" for credit, said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, who is calling for regulation.
Not only can posting on Facebook make a person "undesirable," not posting on facebook can make a person "undesirable" for credit — and even if your repeat posts about being "too poor for the fancy Ramen" were meant to be a joke on the price of gourmet ramen, if a credit agency decided that made you less worthy of owning a car, you can't dispute it. Here's a recent status update I posted:
I sound like a fucking psychopath. No way in hell would anyone give me a loan. Think, for a second, about everything you've seen posted on Facebook that might make you "undesirable." Just think about it. And then try to get used to the idea of never owning anything that costs more than what you currently have in the bank, ever.
Credit agencies might also turn to friend lists in order to assess a person's standing in the community. As a person who long ago had her friend request accepted by Courtney Stodden, I have a bad feeling about this.
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