What if your social media score replaced your credit report?

By Adam L. Penenberg , written on May 27, 2013

From The News Desk

Bill Clerico, CEO of WePay, a payment processing service, suggested on VentureBeat that your social media influence could one day supplant your credit score.

It's an intriguing albeit somewhat creepy idea. Each day we collectively upload 40 million photos on Instagram, post 400 million tweets, and share 985 million pieces of content on Facebook, so there is, for most of us, an abundance of data to fuel these psycho-economic portraits.

What’s more, social data, Clerico claims, is more cost-effective than running credit checks, because credit scores reveal only a glimpse of our risk potential while “an online profile shows a more accurate personal history.” By “analyzing years of social data that is difficult to fake, we can more intelligently combat ever-more-sophisticated cybercriminals.” Indeed, Twitter and Faceboook have time lines. It would take years for someone intent on committing fraud before he could build a believable profile.

Now, Clerico is mostly talking about using a business's social media footprint to ensure that it is legit. But it got me thinking. What if the idea was extended to personal credit? What would happen if a person's social media “influence,” coupled with advance data mining techniques, determined his creditworthiness? Imagine you’re applying for a mortgage and instead of accessing your credit score the bank has your social media report instead. What would that be like?

“Tsk, tsk,” the mortgage representative says. “Binge drinking in college? According to our calculations binge drinkers are 12 percent more likely to default on a mortgage and 27 percent more likely to be late with a payment at least once.”

“But that was eight years ago,” you say. “I only did it once, er, a few times. And I deleted those photos from my Facebook profile when I started looking for a job.”

“What about that party at a man named Biff Bleckman’s house? That was two years ago, and there’s a photo of you in a room with a group of people smoking pot.”

“No one tagged me in any photos like that.”

“No need,” the rep says. “We have facial recognition software that positively identifies you.”

“I wasn’t smoking pot.”

“Yes, but you were in a room where people were, and at least one of them friended you on Facebook. Our calculations show that someone who is friends with someone who has been photographed smoking pot is 4 percent more likely to declare personal bankruptcy. To mitigate that risk we would be forced to raise your interest rate a couple of points."

You don’t know what to say. You’re not happy with the .2 percent increase in your mortgage rate, but you can live with it you suppose when the rep finds something else in your social media report.

"It says here that you have used Twitter to complain about customer service.”


“You’ve criticized AT&T for dropped calls and American Airlines for stranding you and 250 other passengers on a runway for three hours.”

“Hasn't everybody?"

"Be that as it may..."

"How could that possibly add to my risk?”

"Because people who criticize companies over social media are 13 percent more likely to call  customer service operators for clarifications on their mortgage agreements. Each call costs our company 13 cents, multiplied by the 5.7 times this category of customer calls in and that’s an additional 74.1 cents plus future processing fee."

"Add it to my tab?"

“Oh, dear,” the rep says. "We have looked at your entire social graph and charted a probability curve based on the creditworthiness of the people you follow and interact with on Facebook and Twitter."

"What does the tell you?"

"First, you're likely to complain about your mortgage company to friends and family, which could have a modest drag on our business."

"I may anyway."

"True, but I will have to add a point to your interest rate. Also, people who match your profile are more likely to sue and add to our company's legal bills. That's another point."

"Isn't there anything in my profile that would lower my interest rate?"

The press sifts through the date and finally says. "Well, you like dogs. Dog owners are slightly less likely to engage in fraudulent activity."

And the rep hasn't even gotten to all the online comments you've contributed, the Amazon, eBay and Yelp reviews you've left, the Twitter fights you've had and the pissing matches you've lost on Facebook. Your social media data has taken on a life of its own.

I never thought I'd say this, but give me my credit report anyway.