A UK startup has created a creepy new product that allows landlords to analyze the social media accounts of potential tenants. The product, Tenant Assured, scrapes your Facebook and other social media accounts for pretty much all of your personal information and prepares a dossier of it to send to your would-be landlord.
What is some of the information this invasive tool gathers? Well, pretty much everything; age, whether or not you’re pregnant, financial stress level, and personality traits like neuroticism and agreeableness are just a few of the factors it takes into account. Some of that information, like whether or not a potential tenant is pregnant, is illegal for landlords to consider under U.S. housing discrimination law. However, the company’s co-founder, Steve Thornhill, told The Washington Post “it’s up to landlords to do the right thing” with the illegal information the tool provides.
But even if the tool itself isn’t illegal, it’s definitely creepy and poses a major ethical problem.
“Even if the makers of [Tenant Assured], and the landlords who use it, manage to evade legal liability, it should be made illegal,” Seth A. Miller, an attorney specializing in tenant law, told Gawker. “People should not be forced to join social media just to rent an apartment, and landlords and employers should not have the right to view posts that were not written for them to read.”
What’s worse, the company plans on creating more offshoots of the feature, including one for HR departments and one for parents looking for potential nannies. Only time will tell if this idea is too creepy for the everyday consumer, but it’s disturbing that it went to market in the first place.
With such invasive tools combing through social media sites, it’s essential that users have their accounts locked down and do not share any posts publicly. It’s also wise to be careful what you post anywhere in the first place.