Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 19 September 2015

Gemma Styles: Is Facebook Going To Start Social (Media) Cleansing Poor People?

Gemma Styles: Is Facebook Going To Start Social (Media) Cleansing Poor People?

The Debrief: Facebook might soon be able to use your friend's credit histories to decide whether you should be allowed credit. Time to do a serious friend cull?

Ah, Facebook. The social minefield we love to hate… or just avoid all together – but you’ve got to be pretty hipster for that, let’s be honest. How are you going to get invited to secret not-at-all-fake Ray Ban sales without it? I’ve chatted before about instances that you might think about unfriending someone and this week the news has thrown up another large spanner for you to mull over. 

Faceache has just purchased a patent allowing it to sell off your friends list to banks. The new technology will allow lenders to look into your friend’s credit histories to help them judge whether or not you’re likely to pay back the money you borrow. GULP. The patent in question is part of a package deal bought by Facebook for £26 million and reads: 'When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual’s social network who are connected to the individual through authorized nodes. If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected.'

Wow. Now we don’t know exactly what’s going on here yet (what else is new?) so it’s unclear how this patent is likely to be used. Facebook may never actually use this patent, they might use part of it and not use the lending bit, or they could sell it on to someone else. But seeing as they already like to sneak in unlimited access to our cameras and microphones with their Messenger app – I would not be surprised. So on we go.

Conversation starter topic at a dinner party. Ditch your spendy mates? Discuss. AWKWARD. How would that conversation go? 

'Uh, hey, I saw you unfriended me on Facebook – did I do something?'

‘Er, no… Just when I was round a couple of weeks ago you mentioned not paying your credit card bill on time this month, so, you know. Needs must.’

With the Labour leadership election all wrapped up and Corbyn on the throne, there’s been a lot of chat this week about welfare and rental pressures causing ‘social cleansing’ in expensive areas and cities. WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA CLEANSING, EH ZUCKERBERG? Are the people with dodgy credit scores going to be cleansed off the internet to make it a more bountiful arena for those people who always pay back the minimum on their Topshop store cards? What a world.

Now what I’m wondering about this particular moral/online dilemma is – how does one actually go about guessing someone’s credit score? All feels a bit judgy and gross, no? ‘Well they’re wearing quite an expensive t-shirt in their Instagram selfie from today so they must be doing alright… but maybe they’ve just spent all their money and borrowed more…' Surely if you know someone well enough to make an educated guess about their credit scoring, you're going to want to stay friends with them no matter what their Expedia report says? I suppose to play devil’s advocate you could say that a good mate would WANT you to get your graduate loan approved and be happy to take the hit. Gotta sting a bit though, eh? 

Frankly I’m not really willing to go about life like this. However – I am a cog in the machine. Perhaps one day I will break free of the shackles and move to a desert island to survive on coconuts and the human spirit, but for now I bow to the man and try to stay on the good side of the gas company and the tax man like the CAPITALIST DRONE that I am. 

And anyway, enough of all that, there are far worse Facebook crimes out there than having a poor credit rating. See: people who post a nightly, slightly out-of-focus shot of their dinner, or occasionally a Britain First status. I mean, if you're going to cull, maybe start with them, right? 

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

Tags: Facebook et al, Money worries, Friends