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    Careful Who You 'Like': Lenders Could Deny Loans Based on Facebook Friends

    © REUTERS / Dado Ruvic
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    Now, more than ever, it may pay to be wary of accepting just any old friend request online. Facebook recently filed a patent stating that a person can be denied a loan based on the credit history of contacts online.

    If you've been thinking of cleaning up your Facebook friends and getting rid of those random online connections, now may be the right time to do so, as it turns out your contacts could cost you that loan you need.

    It's no secret that companies rake in profits by collecting and selling the personal data of their users, but it's hard not to raise your eyebrows at this one. The patent in question, ostensibly designed to prevent spam, and purchased by Facebook from Friendster along with a bundle of others for $40 million in 2010, allows a user's potential lenders to examine online friends' credit ratings to determine whether to grant a loan, the Independent reported. It includes the following text:

    "In a fourth embodiment of the invention, the service provider is a lender. When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual's social network who are connected to the individual through authorized nodes. If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected."

    In other words, Facebook may be trying to live up to the saying: "Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are." Untrustworthy, irresponsible friends? Lenders may soon think you are too.

    There are plenty of reasons for Facebook users to be irritated with the way the company deals with their information — targeted advertising is but one of them — but this patent brings Facebook's information policy to the next level of controversy.

    After years of fighting with discriminatory lending in the US, Facebook users' trustworthiness when it comes to landing that loan could be judged by the unsavory borrowing habits of their acquaintances, even if their own history is crystal clear.

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    Tags:
    patent, loans, credit, Facebook, United States
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