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The personal data you share with Facebook and other social platforms is a treasure trove of information that can, according to one UK startup, prove whether or not you would be a good tenant.
Score Assured wants to take the data you share privately and publicly with social media and sell it to individuals, employers, and landlords. Tenant Assured, the first tool in the company’s potential suite of data mining-and-selling resources, will connect with your social accounts and give landlords a report based on your data.
The company says it uses machine learning software to predict what your data means—from your personality to “financial stress.” It also rates the “risk” you would be as a tenant. Cofounder Steve Thornhill declined to tell me how exactly the company pulls private data from Facebook, claiming it was part of the company’s intellectual property.
In order to scrape your data and asses your worthiness, you have to give the company full access to your social accounts, from news feed posts to messages to tweets to employment data. You can pick which accounts you permit to be scraped, but if a landlord is asking for it and you’re desperately trying to find a new place to live, then you’re probably going to succumb to their requests, no matter how invasive.
“Users can feel reassured that this is not an invasion of privacy but always done with their explicit consent,” Thornhill said in an email. “We are empowering tenants to make a choice as to whether they would like to use their social media information to support their application for a rental property that they have got their eyes on.”
Beyond just being a potentially invasive service, the Washington Post points out that some of the data the company collects and shows to tenants could be used to violate housing laws—it shares your age and how often potential tenants have discussed pregnancy. U.S. housing discrimination law prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants with this information.
Thornhill told me the service is only available in the UK and has no intention of launching in the U.S.
Whether or not landlords actually adopt this seemingly creepy data-based tenant reviewing system remains to be seen. The Daily Dot created an account to try and use the first free report the site offers, but we couldn’t request one from our dashboard. The sample data on the site’s homepage is supposed to be interactive, and yet clicking on it does absolutely nothing at the moment.
The company doesn’t say if or how many landlords are using it yet. Thornhill told me they are “in early stage discussions and trials with a number of third parties who provide traditional reference information to landlords.”
Thornhill said Tenant Assured deletes your data once a landlord has made a decision, and said that reports don’t include raw data, just a two-page dossier with algorithmically-generated results.
As services collect more and more data on us, people and companies are trying to figure out how to take advantage of these resources.
Fitness tracking is enabling companies to tie health data to insurance; employers dig around your digital social life when they consider hiring you; and even universities crawl public data from students.
And while Thornhill says Tenant Assured won’t be making its way to the U.S., it might be only a matter of time before a similar service spawns stateside. Especially considering the lengths people go to just to find an apartment in Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the biggest companies that make money off our data.
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.