As more people share personal information on social media, employers and property owners are using a unique--some might say creepy--new way to obtain information that background checks and credit reports won't reveal.
Score Assured, a startup headquartered in the U.K., gives employers and landlords the ability to "strip-mine," as the Washington Post describes it, social media accounts of potential employees and tenants. Score Assured, cofounded by Steve Thornhill, requires potential employees and potential tenants to grant the company access to their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Then, the startup's algorithms blast through all of a person's activity and private messages in an effort to asses personality and financial stress with the data.
The company's first product is Tenant Assured, which provides landlords information such as age and whether or not the person is pregnant, the Washington Post reports. Both are protected statuses under U.S. housing discrimination law.
"All we can do is give them the information," Thornhill tells the Washington Post. "It's up to landlords to do the right thing."
Users must agree to give full access to Score Assured, but the users are not allowed to view, review, or dispute the results, Washington Post reports.
Thornhill tells the Post that his company uses online behavior like frequency of social media logins and posts about partying or shopping to track "credit worthiness" and whether or not the person is likely to pay rent.
The service also collects and analyses private messages, posting activity and content to produce a report about a person's credibility and financial risk.
Journalist Caitlin Dewey submitted to the program and said the report included measurements on her personality and a breakdown of how many time she posted the words "loan" and "pregnant." All of the analysis is to see if she is worthy of an apartment and whether or not she is likely to pay rent on time.
Dewey's report also listed her interests and closest friends. In general, Score Assured scans for where people shop, how many times they went out to bars, how often their relationship status changes, and other data.
The idea of using social media to vet people and their finances isn't new, but some say that Score Assured goes too far.
Seth A. Miller of Collins, Dobkin & Miller LLP, which specializes in housing and landlord-tenant law, tells Gawker that landlords are not allowed to make decisions about who they rent to based on religion, race, national origin, gender, or profession. Employers are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on these characteristics either.
Miller says Score Assured "should be made illegal."
"People should not be forced to join social media just to rent an apartment, and landlords and employers should not have the right to view posts that were not written for them to read," Miller tells Gawker.
Score Assured did not return requests for comment.
The company plans to offer customized versions of the service to employers and HR departments and parents.
"If you're living a normal life, then frankly, you have nothing to worry about," Thornhill tells the Washington Post.