According to the Washington Post, there’s a new startup out there that is intent on making your online information easily accessible to landlords, employers, and credit agencies. The company is Score Assured, and its intent on “Unlocking big data to bring you insightful referencing.” We see something else though.
For example, the Washington Post notes its first product is Tenant Assured. What does this product do?
After your would-be landlord sends you a request through the service, youre required to grant it full access to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram profiles. From there, Tenant Assured scrapes your site activity, including entire conversation threads and private messages; runs it through natural language processing and other analytic software; and finally, spits out a report that catalogues everything from your personality to your financial stress level.
Consumers, tenants, and employees need to ask if they are willing to give up their individual rights to privacy so easily at this time. Steve Thornhill, one of the company’s co-founders, seems to miss the point when he tells the Post If youre living a normal life, then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about. What about those of us that don’t live a normal life? Further, the Post notes another inherent danger:
Meanwhile, unlike credit reports which you may, under federal law, request every 12 months Tenant Assured doesnt give users any way to view their ratings or dispute misleading data.
Make no mistake: The data will mislead. Among the behaviors that count against your Tenant Assured credit percentage i.e., how confident the company is that youll pay rent are online retail social logins and frequency of social logins used for leisure activities. In other words, Tenant Assured draws conclusions about your credit-worthiness based on things such as whether you post about shopping or going out on the weekends.
The Washington Post article describes a type of consent feature that requires consumers, employees and tenants to give permission to disseminate this information. But even if so, the reality of false and misleading information being disseminated is too big to ignore.
Tenant Assured is “coming soon,” but we question the lawfulness of this product. Notably, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) demands that consumer reporting agencies, which each of these products arguably is, must disseminate accurate information. If inaccurate information is spread, and a consumer, employee, or landlord suffers a wrong because of this inaccurate information, there may be a claim under FCRA for that individual. But it takes consumers who are willing to stand up and prevent these privacy intrusions to come forward and enforce these rights.