Last week, Facebook received approval for a patent for a feature that we should hope would never be implemented.
In theory, it would work like this: You apply for a loan. In addition to looking at your personal creditworthiness, the lender would also look into the credit ratings of your Facebook friends. If the overall number is good, you get the loan. If the overall credit histories of your friends are bad, you are rejected for the loan.
This feature was part of a 2012 patent filing following Facebook’s 2010 purchase of Friendster.
There are obvious hurdles to this feature being implemented, namely the whole notion of access the credit histories of people without the expressed permission and the legality of basing creditworthiness of an individual based on a friend, particularly when a Facebook “friend” is not always someone a person knows or regularly associates with in real life.
If such a thing were ever implemented, it could create a sort of digital “redlining“, in which certain communities of people could be steered to less-favorable financial vehicles, if not denied entirely, based on simply being a member of said community.
So, let’s hope that this just remains an obscure patent that never sees the light of day. Otherwise, we could find ourselves changing our Facebook privacy settings to exclude us from credit checks.