Forget the euro crisis. There's another credit storm brewing in Germany that hits much closer to the heart. It's on Twitter and Facebook.
Last week, Germany's wired population and business press freaked out when a broadcast news agency revealed confidential documents that showed that the country's largest credit agency, SCHUFA, plans to scrape data from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to determine an individual's risk to lenders and ability to pay bills, according to Der Spiegel.
The news was first reported by German broadcast news network NDR last Thursday, which sourced confidential internal documents from the credit agency. Der Spiegel confirmed the news with the credit bureau, which defended its actions saying that everything they planned to do was "within the legal frameworks in Germany."
Can we say big brother yet? The United States may not be far behind. As The Huffington Post reported earlier this year, lenders and credit reporting agencies are not yet at the point of scraping social media sites to help determine credit-worthiness--but not because they don't want to. In fact, they would love to, experts told us.
For now lending laws have put some roadblocks in place. Under federal fair lending laws, American banks and lenders must follow regulations about what kind of information they use to make lending decisions. Consumer protections prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, sex, marital status, age or physical disabilities. In short, that covers a lot of what a person might put on a Facebook page.
As of last April, the big three credit reporting agencies in the U.S. said they did not use data from Facebook for credit scoring.
However, that doesn't mean credit reporting agencies are not digging deep into other areas of life to glean information about you. Just this week, Experian announced a new credit score called Extended View, which takes into account things like rental payment history and public records. The new score is intended to score consumers who don't have an existing credit file, such as people new to the United States or those who live mostly with cash.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, news of SCHUFA's plans sparked some social media capitalism: Some Facebook and Twitter users offered to sell their credit-worthy social media profiles to the highest bidders. One German tweeted last week: "Dear SCHUFA, won't tweet much today, going to buy my new Porsche and then off to the coast to drink champagne," Reuters reported.