Will marketers become able to target products and services based on the sensitive personal data of not just you, but also your friends? That’s what Facebook believes according to latest patent filings.
Facebook has a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on a method that can possibly help lenders view the social habits and connections of an applicant in order to determine if they are eligible for a loan.
The patent states in a footnote that when a person applies for a loan, the lender will be able to go on Facebook and check the credit standing of that person’s friends. If the average credit rating of an applicant’s friends meets a minimum credit score, then the applicant will be approved.
The patent can also be used for other things such as preventing members from sending spam to other users who are not directly connected.
In addition, it can be applied to make certain users invisible to people they are not friends with. This could mean that users would not come up on search results or be able to receive their messages.
he patent describes a technology that tracks the way users are connected in a network. The main use case is for preventing members of a network from sending spam to other members with who they’re not directly or legitimately connected.
Other use cases involve preventing network members from receiving emails from, or showing up in the search results of, people with whom they have no direct or legitimate connection.
But the technology can also aid in other types of discrimination. Here’s the last use case
The use of social network contacts as a basis for establishing credit worthiness is controversial, as just because some of a user’s friends have bad credit scores doesn’t mean the user does.
But the technology could be used by banks to add a new metric to the review process. Such technology could be harmful for tmany people who have limited or no access to banking services, and could make them more prone to using alternative predatory systems such as payday loans.
Facebook bought the patent from Friendster in 2010. The inventor, Christopher Lunt, now works at getinsured.com, a website that offers tools to help people enroll in health insurance plans.