What you say and post online can have a profound impact on your life. We all know this. This is not news. However, that the frequency with which you use specific, inoffensive words on Facebook and other social media platforms could impact your credit score, and consequently whether or not you get a car or home loan, will still come as a surprise to many — and yet one prominent San Jose-based credit rating company is running a major pilot program set on making this a reality.
In an interview with the Financial Times, credit rating company FICO explained how it has been working with "a dozen US credit card companies" to develop a new way to asses individual's creditworthiness — through social media word choice.
“If you look at how many times a person says ‘wasted’ in their profile, it has some value in predicting whether they’re going to repay their debt,” said FICO Chief Executive Will Lansing.
Another FICO executive, Jim Wehmann, explained that the company's techniques help to "score the previously unscoreable" and that "[the] market was absolutely hungry for a solution.”
One can only expect these techniques to become more refined as they move out of the pilot program phase.
This method of determining creditworthiness seems to be in line with, albeit less sophisticated than, a technology patented by Facebook this past summer. As reported at the time by CNN Money, Facebook envisioned a system in which your friend circle carried weight and could alter your credit score — depending on who you were "friends" with on the social network, you may or may not be worthy of a loan.
Broke by association, as it were.
This move by credit rating companies to trawl Facebook profiles for specific signifiers of risk can only be seen as a natural, if unsettling, evolution for both the social media giant and the nation's financial institutions. After all, if as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims, "[you] have one identity... Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity," then whatever identity you present online must by its very nature be who you really are — your "one identity," the creepy logic goes.
So the next time you go about expressing your one, true identity on the network beloved by grandmothers everyone, remember to make sure that it fits into the box of what some random bank algorithm five years from now might consider "creditworthy."