Facebook secured a patent in August that could theoretically let the site analyze the credit scores of your friends and, potentially, prevent you from getting a bank loan based off that information.
“When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual’s social network who are connected to the individual […],” the patent read. “If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected.”
While this is still hypothetical at this point, many privacy and civil rights advocates are obviously concerned. Critics say that this kind of analyzing would introduce a whole host of discriminatory problems based on race and class. Since most people form connections with the individuals around them, such a tool would work against people in poorer areas. However, some experts say that people can pump the brakes on worrying about it—for now.
“Is a broader array of data, such as the things we post on Facebook, will that go into the hopper of data that goes into a model to make these decisions in the future? I wouldn’t bet against it,” said Aaron Rieke, the director of tech policy at Upturn. “In the long term, it’s hard for me to imagine a future in which we’re not using more types of data to make more types of decisions. I think right now the public imagination is a little bit ahead of where we are in the real world.”
It’s always a good idea to avoid posting sensitive information about yourself on Facebook. However, if the site can take advantage of such basic information as who you’re friends with, many users could turn on the site’s lack of privacy.