The majority of social media users have to come to understand that irresponsible online behavior can lead to regrettable real-world consequences. From employers rescinding job offers after discovering some less-than-professional Facebook photos to outraged consumers boycotting a business following an insensitive tweet, there seems to be any number of ways for our digital diversions to come back and bite us. A German financial service firm is looking to break new ground in this area, however, with plans to mine Facebook data to inform judgments of a potential client's creditworthiness.
As economic uncertainties echo across the European continent, Germany's largest credit rating firm, Schufa, has tapped social media as the newest avenue for discovering risk management insights. According to GigaOM, executives are hoping to access data from its customers' Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts "to identify and evaluate opportunities for and threats to the company."
But while Schufa views the strategy as a logical extension of its due diligence onto digital platforms, it has already encountered a fair amount of data security concern that always seems to surround the commercialization of social media profiles.
"It cannot be that social networks are systematically scoured for sensitive data, resulting in credit ratings of customers," consumer protection minister Ilse Aigner told reporters. "Content and comments on social networking sites should not be abused by the credit bureaus. Schufa may not be the Big Brother of the economy."
Government officials have asked the company to disclose the full extent of its data mining ambitions, according to Reuters, but the company is standing by its claims that it is merely protecting its business interests by analyzing and researching available information. Regardless of any consistencies between the expressed and actual goals of the project, it looks like the company will be making a considerable investment in its strategy.
Last week, Schufa partnered with German IT leaders from the Hasso-Plattner Institute (HPI) to announce a three-year joint venture. While details remain scarce, it was confirmed that the social media analytics initiative will be a part of these plans.
This is not the first time such a strategy has been proposed, according to GigaOM, as a Hong Kong microlending startup took a similar approach last December by asking potential customers for their social media passwords. And with employers already following suit in growing numbers, this slippery slope could soon lead to a broader conversation of just what exactly constitutes private data.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro