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Secret consumer score: what Airbnb, Yelp, and more are doing with your data

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Companies are using your data to judge you

Facebook Prineville Data Center
Facebook Prineville Data Center
Photo: Vjeran Pavic

When you try to return an item at Best Buy or Sephora, before deciding whether to take back the item, those businesses have apparently been secretly looking at something called your consumer score — a hidden rating based on data you didn’t even give them that determines how they treat you, according to Kashmir Hill’s recent expose for The New York Times. Apparently, your consumer score determines how long you’re kept on the line when calling customer service. It turns out, a lot of apps and services you use are quietly passing on your data to companies tasked with judging you and coming up with a rating for what you’re like as a consumer.

Surprisingly, some of these third-party companies are willing to show you what data they have on you. Hill found out how to request her data from five of these companies, and the article explains what happened when she did. Sift, a company that looks for fraud, gave her a 400-page file that included a Yelp order for chicken tikka masala, vegetable samosas, and garlic naan she made on her iPhone three years ago. The file contained every Yelp order she’d ever made and every Airbnb message she’d ever sent. Hill also points out what’s missing from the file: while companies do show you your data, they don’t tell you how they calculate your score or how they use your rating to make decisions about you.

Read the full piece here to learn how to request your own data.