Bad Idea: Company claims to know credit score from Twitter friends

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According to a data mining company, the old adage of being judged by the friends you keep translates easily into the digital friends you keep.

Rapleaf, a social media monitoring company, claims that by analyzing public information such as the friends you have on Twitter it can assess how creditworthy you are and how likely you are to respond to advertising.

Rapleaf monitors public digital conversations and stores away your Twitter and Facebook status updates, restaurant reviews, Amazon book reviews and plenty of other online public information in its database of 378 million profiles to profile you.

Not only does Rapleaf claim that your credit score can be divined out of the digital company you keep, it also can monitor how your friends respond to online advertising and, if they are clicking, show you the same ad.

Rapleaf told Fast Company that its service could actually help banks make better decisions, suggesting that if a standard credit report leads to a rejection and a Rapleaf report showed that the person is friends with people who pay on time that a loan or credit card would be approved.

Pardon me while I control my laughter. If you think banks will actually use this type of information for the betterment of mankind than my name is Lorenzo von Matterhorn.

This practice is especially scary, even for those of us not wearing tinfoil hats, because the data on Rapleaf is aggregated by e-mail address and not very accurate.

When I logged in to see what the company had on file for me I found out that:
  • My name was either Jenny, James or Josh
  • I am either male or female
  • I am between the ages of 26 and 58.
  • I also have a profile on BlackPlanet.com and have no friends on social networking site Hi5.
  • And, I have vacation homes in Albion, New England and Pasadena, Ca.
Part of this misinformation comes from having a particularly common last name as part of my e-mail address, but nonetheless, there are too many errors for me to feel comfortable having any financial institution use this kind of data to establish my creditworthiness. If you want to see what Rapleaf has on file for you, you can sign up or opt out of tracking on the Web site.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go friend Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Pierre Omidyar and Mike Bloomberg so that I have some rich friends when banks start using this data.
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