Welcome to the age of the social media credit check. On July 22nd, Facebook filed a new patent for a product the company could sell to creditors to analyze someone’s creditworthiness based on their social network.
Using this new tool, banks and other loan providers can review a loan applicant’s social media network to determine what interest rate they should have on their loan, or if they should get a loan at all.
As The Independent noted on Wednesday, if you have a social network that includes too many people with poor credit you could be denied access to traditional lenders. Being blocked from traditional lenders could lead to having to resort to chiselers like payday loan outfits where customers are gouged with ridiculously high interest rates
Facebook is not only selling your personal information, it is shaping your life choices.
It is also worth noting that the methodology for this product is most useful if social networks are highly class stratified. Indeed, Facebook and its potential enterprise customers are literally banking on someone’s social media network accurately reflecting their economic status — that those of high creditworthiness primarily associate with others of high creditworthiness and that those of low creditworthiness primarily associate with others of low creditworthiness.
If that is true, then those who claim “there are no classes in America” appear to be rather misinformed. Those Americans in control of the wealth are convinced class is not only real, but a reliable social and economic phenomenon that needs to be factored into their business strategies.
With the patent only recently reported, it is unknown how Facebook users will react to the knowledge that their creditworthiness may be judged on who they friended on Facebook. One outcome could be that Facebook users demand that the company not allow their social network to be used for credit analysis. Another possible outcome is that Facebook users will be more hesitant to friend people who they perceive as having bad credit which will only further stratify social networks based on class.
Whatever the outcome, the reality of how social media companies operate is getting harder to deny. Despite all the lofty rhetoric about connecting people or the seemingly straightforward advertiser pay-per-click model, selling your data to third parties is the actual business.