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Are Creditors Keeping Tabs on You on Facebook?

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Here's another creepy way that social media is being used -- credit card companies and other financial institutions are experimenting with algorithms that profile your online friends.

computer monitor and credit cards

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Based on the theory that our character is a reflection of the company we keep, if credit card companies succeed and institute the computer application, what will they really find out? That some of our friends swear, get photographed drunk at parties, or sadly, have a puny social network? And what might that say about our financial stability?

Up until recently, the biggest factor that swayed credit card companies' opinions about our honesty and timeliness was our credit rating. The credit rating system is based on the adage that if you aim to predict someone's future behavior, you should look at their past behavior. Smart, responsible people who haven't bitten off more than they can chew and who make payments on time will probably continue to behave that way. But that was in the old economy.

In the new economy, with unemployment rates still soaring and the number of real estate foreclosures continuing to mount, a rolling snowball of good people now have bad credit
-- through no fault of their own. And when the economy's wheels begin to get greased again and the train is up and running, there will be a huge population of viable consumers with unattractive credit ratings. So how do money lenders separate the losers-by-nature from the losers-by-default?

Easy. They connect the social networking dots using psychology. Here's one example: A study out of the University of Utah called Personality and the Formation of Social Networks found that extroverted people have larger online social networks, and that people with an "openness to new experience" have more negative ties with online friends than those who are considered "conscientious." Hold that thought for a minute. There was another study in Taiwan that showed that these same personality traits -- openness to experience and conscientiousness -- can lead individuals to develop a passion for online shopping.

Huh? A compulsion to shop is related to a person who is "open to experience," which is related to a large social network? These are the kinds of clues that computer researchers are looking to integrate. That, and the information from the content you post about yourself, from political views to religion to mommy news. Yikes! Would too many "mommy postings" signal to a computer that you aren't working enough?

And lest you think you can fool the world by creating an electronic footprint that is an inflated version of yourself, think again. A recent study out of the University of Texas reports that online social networking profiles convey accurate images of the profile owners, either because people aren't trying to look good or because they are trying and failing to pull it off.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mic February 4, 2010, 10:41 AM

Yup. I am a collector, & I have been using myspace & FB to track down debtors. I have found people who are so stupid to pose in front of their address with their car & then was able to repo.

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