Lenders are increasingly looking at Facebook and Twitter in order to determine creditworthiness and the trend is percolating up to the point that now regulators are considering an intervention, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Startup lending companies like LendUp and Moven check to see whether a potential borrower has posted about losing a job on Facebook, for example, as well as factor the number of friends a borrower has into their decision of whether or not to make a loan.
The prospect of mining social media data is so appealing that now Fair Isaac Corp (FICO), the company that calculates consumers' credit scores, is thinking about getting into the game.
Social media is used to get more information on borrowers, but some innovative startups have also started using it to pressure borrowers to pay back their debts. The loan company Lenddo, for example, will broadcast messages about repayment to a user's social network. Social media can also be used to look at whether your friends have paid back their loans.
These lenders now factor the number of Facebook friends you have into their decisions to make loans
The social media-plus-lending trend started more than three years ago but is just getting onto regulators' radar now. Government agencies and consumer protection groups aren't thrilled about it, saying it violates consumer privacy. Proponents say social media provides hope for borrowers who don't have a strong credit history. The Federal Trade Commission is planning a series of seminars on emerging privacy issues that will cover this issue in the spring.
Some jurisdictions have passed laws preventing employers from looking at job candidates' social media accounts and universities from spying on prospective students, so we could see something similar when it comes to banks and lenders.