Could Posting On Facebook Screw Your Credit Score?

November 19, 2023

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Could your social media activity be harming your personal finances in a big way?

Have you ever been denied when you requested a loan from your bank or signed up for a credit card that you felt you should qualify for? That's extremely frustrating, right? There's a fascinating (and scary) possibility that your social media activity and online footprint can be impacting your attempts at living a normal financial life. Is this something that you should be thinking about? If you like to do anything normal on the Internet, perhaps this is important to you.

When we shop, chat about gossip with friends, or simply read the news while getting our morning coffee, we leave behind a trail of data. Some examples of data we leave behind for different companies to profit off of include our tweets and message board comments, social media posts, meme stocks you research on Fidelity, cryptocurrency you research on various Bitcoin sites, Facebook pictures we share with our friends, the number of times we visited WebMD searching for info about that mysterious new rash, signing up for a class to try and learn a new language, putting a dating profile out there with some of our personal information to attract a lover, and booking a plane ticket for a vacation. These and many other pieces of personal data are collected by companies called Data Brokers. These companies wield so much power and ability that even the IRS is reportedly paying data brokers for information on Americans' financial activities for their investigations.

These data brokers can utilize ad tracking and targeting and use very clever JavaScript tricks using cookies and other technologies to follow you around as you go from one website to another and analyze all the information you leave behind. On their own, each data point says a bit about you. But when you combine all that information and associate it with your personally identifiable information (PII) over a broad audience, it suddenly becomes possible to gain insight into your political beliefs, your religious practices, which gender you are, your sexual preferences and kinks, financial status, and even whether you are about to get married or want to get pregnant.

Of course this can be very powerful and potentially manipulative on its own just for crafting advertisements, but when it comes to your finances, this can be even more powerful. What if a bank decides to use sophisticated Machine Learning techniques to try and figure out how much alcohol you consume to try and figure out if you're a bad loan risk? What if they use information about the stores you shop at to try and figure out how savvy of a consumer you are to try and sell you different products? What if they want to use the data to discriminate against a specific group in some way? These questions aren't just hypotheticals, there are loan providers in India (as just one example) that are experimenting with these kinds of practices.

Fortunately, to an extent, laws do product people in this regard in many regions. In many developed countries, there are clear standards for the formulas that are supposed to be used for computing a Credit Score, which may provide some measure of protection, assuming that these legal structures can be trusted. But the best protection you have might be to be very cautious about your privacy settings and to do your best to deny corporations access to your private data by not posting every little detail about your life to social media. Nobody knows what the future will hold here and how big data and machine learning will impact your finances in the future, but at least now you're hopefully a little bit more aware of what problems can arise from just some of the data that these data brokers are collecting about you and why it's so important to consider this when planning out your life.

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide and learned something new! Check out our Learning Center to learn more about online privacy and security or consider subscribing to our Online Privacy Service to remove your phone number, name, and address from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo search results and hundreds of data broker sites.