Are Your Friends Creditworthy?

How many friends do you have? Are they really friends? And does that same standard apply to your Facebook friends? Think hard, because your answers to those questions could spell the difference between you getting a loan, and not getting a loan.

It was bound to happen eventually. We all know how our use of social media leads to the creation of mountains of data about each of us. Marketers look at all that data to decide which commercial messages are most appropriate. Political campaigns analyze meta tags from Tweets to decide whether we’re swing voters, and which ads we should get. And now, we’re beginning to learn how bankers are combing through Facebook relationships to help gauge creditworthiness. On a related front, a growing number of tech startups is coming up with tools and methodologies to meet this need.

Let’s back up a second. How did we get from FICO to Facebook? What exactly do social networks have to do with loan applications?

Quite a lot, it turns out. The belief is that we typically connect with like-minded people, good or bad. In ye olden days, that meant asking for references from friends and family. Now, technology plays that role. Hence, if you have Facebook friends who defaulted on their loans, and if you interact with them on a regular basis, you might be the type to default too.

The companies offering these services see their mission in a more positive light. Lenddo, for example, says it helps the emerging middle class use social connections to build their creditworthiness and access financial services. However, could the same information be used to block a loan?

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