Some ideas that brilliant young people have in the technology field should have remained unthought, and if thought, promptly rejected on the grounds that however clever and profitable, they will make the world a crummier place. This is one of those ideas:
From CNN Money we learn that Lenddo, a new financial lending companies (apparently none of the brilliant young people work in the marketing department—Lenddo???) has figured out that one’s Facebook friends, and how friendly you are with them, are a revealing indicator of your credit worthiness. If one of those FB friends is late paying back a loan to Lenddo, their data indicates that it means you are more of a credit risk than if that friend was right on time. Not only that, if the delinquent friend is someone you frequently interact with on the social network, it means you are even more likely to be a deadbeat.
“It turns out humans are really good at knowing who is trustworthy and reliable in their community,” happily crows Jeff Stewart, a co-founder and CEO of Lenddo. “What’s new is that we’re now able to measure through massive computing power.” Fascinating, Jeff!
It is not as if getting loans isn’t hard enough. Now Lenddo wants to add guilt by association to the mix. Do you want that mortgage or car loan at a good rate? Un-friend your financially struggling friends, then. Never mind the reasons for their difficulties—illness, catastrophes, humble origins—if they aren’t of the proper class and financial wherewithal, their problems will now reflect poorly on your judgment and character. Meanwhile, the financial difficulties I have on my own aren’t enough for me to worry about—now I have to feel guilty because the debts I ran up starting something as crazy as an ethics business might stop my best friend or sister from getting a loan to start their businesses. Will this create an obligation for me to inform my Facebook friends that my credit scores just took a dive, so they can treat me like the social networking pariah I deserved to be? I think so. Should I check out the financial history and stability of the sender of that new friend request? I’d better.
Lenddo’s innovation, it seems, will make having social contact with anyone without two degrees, a trust fund and a ritzy address a risk to our future success and happiness, and those of our families. In order to have one more technological tool to justify lowering my credit score, Jeff and his company are willing to further stratify America, encourage racial and ethnic divisions —after all, the statistics say white friends are more likely to have good credit scores than black or brown ones—discourage the kind of cross-socioeconomic group networking that can help people overcome the handicap of class, institutionalize group bias, and make choosing who to send happy birthday wishes to on Facebook just one more monetized activity.
In a word, yechh. Using even a forgiving utilitarian standard, this innovation will achieve marginal benefits to lenders while making life for the rest of us just a little bit nastier and unfair. That makes it unethical, by my calculations. People like Jeff Stewart, who don’t consider the unintended consequences to society of their brave new ideas, or if they do, don’t care as long as the profit is great enough, create a constant downward pressure on society, causing it to be more stressful, more difficult, and just plain crummier as time goes by.
Come to think of it, I bet his Facebook friends are likely to be this way too
Sources: CNN Money