Are credit agencies and financial institutions taking big data too far?

Imagine applying for a loan and the credit agency or financial institution requires your Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, WindowsLive or other social media account details to evaluate your application. It may seem unthinkable that your financial clout would be based on the credit worthiness of your friends, your social media behavior or even potentially your profile picture.

Think again.

Big data has big implications and the deluge of social media information that you’ve been voluntarily feeding online to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, among others, is also feeding big data initiatives for credit and lending agencies to evaluate your credit worthiness.

For Real, This is Happening

shutterstock_61522747.jpg In December 2011, the New York Observer’s posted a troubling story about credit agencies and banks using social media information and content -- taken from Facebook and Twitter accounts -- to determine credit scores. The article, "As Banks Start Nosing Around Facebook and Twitter, the Wrong Friends Might Just Sink Your Credit" by Adrianne Jeffries was picked up five days later by PCWorld and Huffington Post Canada. The news sparked social outrage and disdain from consumers but this has done little to change the course of big data usage -- and there are now many more disturbing examples from around the world.

United States: Lenddo

Jeffries' article in December covered how Lenddo, a Hong Kong-based microlending startup incubated in New York at FinTech Innovation Lab, called itself “the first credit scoring service that uses online social network to assess credit.” What makes this even creepier is that Lenddo was incubated in New York, is based in Hong Kong and provides loans in the Philippines and Columbia.

Here’s the exact text from the Lenddo website,

How does Lenddo determine if I am worthy of credit?
We look at many different data points to provide the Lenddo score, from how many social media accounts you have linked to Lenddo to how long your social media accounts have been active. We also consider how many friends or followers you have on your social networks and the number and diversity of members of your Lenddo Trusted Network and their Lenddo scores.

While Lenddo writes that they “value privacy and will safeguard your personal data,” this excludes your loan details and payments records:

What information is shared with my Trusted Network?
You authorize that your Trusted Network can be made aware of the details of your loan application - when you applied for the loan, how much you applied for and your payment history.

Here is the original FAQ answer from December 2011 on Failing to Repay a Lenddo Loan: