Finding an apartment in San Francisco is already a nightmare for many, but one startup is out to make it even harder. The Washington Post reports that a British startup is promising to act as yet another middleman between landlords and prospective tenants — scraping the private contents of would-be tenants' Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts to generate a "character assessment" for landlords to use in deciding exactly which unique and perfect snowflake should be allowed to rent their apartment.
Tenant Assured, as the service offered by startup Score Assured is called, is aimed at landlords who feel that the typical measures by which to judge potential renters — credit score, proof of employment, character references, letters of recommendation from past landlords — are insufficient. Indeed, those traditional metrics would fail to alert landlords to an applicant who "is using a lot of negative words and regularly argumentative online" — apparently key metrics in this 21st-century-apartment-hunting world.
Just how, exactly, does this work? It's easy, according to the company's website, and all starts with a prospective tenant handing over all the user names and passwords to their various social media accounts. Then, "[with] an applicant's permission, we take all available information from social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to create a comprehensive insightful report providing you with a character assessment."
But wait, there's more.
"We use our unique data retrieval capabilities to mine unstructured data, and then we apply a range of cutting edge techniques to get tangible results, including Psycholinguistic Analysis, Natural Language Processing, Bayesian Belief Networks and Machine Learning."
While most right-thinking people would run the other way if a landlord asked them to hand over their Facebook login, those desperate to find a place to live may see no other option than to comply — a fact which Score Assured co-founder Steve Thornhill is counting on.
“People will give up their privacy to get something they want,” he told the Post. "If you're living a normal life, then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about."
But what if your normal life involves writing the word "pregnant" to someone in a Facebook message? Well, that's included in the report provided to a potential landlord. This brings up a whole slew of legal issues around housing discrimination, but that's another matter.
SFist reached out to the company to determine if this service is in use in the Bay Area, but as of press time has received no response. The Washington Post says Tenant Assured "is already live," although the details as to what exactly that means are unclear.
Either way, is this the new world of apartment hunting? Are we destined to live in a time when a drunken Instagram "like" could cost you that sweet one-bedroom apartment? Regardless, maybe think twice before talking too much trash in the SFist comments section — those harsh words may some day make it into your Tenant Assured Character Assessment.