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Ken Magill

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Stupid Patent Watch: I May Never Get Another Loan

8/11/15
 
By Ken Magill
 
Facebook has acquired a patent that—among other things—could be used by financial services firms to determine whether or not to issue loans based on applicants’ social-network friends’ credit scores.
 
God help me if it ever gets put to that use.
 
“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,” says the patent. “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.”
 
Might as well put a big red “REJECT” stamp on my Facebook profile now.
 
I was a very different person 30 years ago—or at least behaved very differently—and most of my Facebook friends are from that time period.
 
I tended bar in a biker hangout. I got a tattoo when getting a tattoo was considered a rebellious act. Today, grade school teachers have tattoos, for crying out loud. Whenever I see someone with a visible tattoo, I am always tempted to roll up my sleeve and say: “Wanna see what that thing’s gonna to look like in 30 years?”
 
Actually, it’s 34 years now. I got the tattoo—Rolling Stones hot licks—when I was 19. The idea was that no matter who I became I would “never forget who I was.”
 
And boy has it worked. Most of the time, I forget it’s there on my upper right shoulder. But every once in a while when I’m shaving, I notice it and think: “Boy, you were a f*king idiot.” A fun idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.
 
The vast majority of my Facebook friends are from the time I had a fresh tattoo on my arm and was doing all of the things one would expect someone with a Rolling Stones tattoo on his arm in the early 80s would do.
 
Don’t get me wrong. They’re for the most part wonderful people. Granted, one’s as loudmouth a jackass as he was 30 years ago. Another was pretty close to being my mother in law back then and every time I read one of her posts, I thank my lucky stars I don’t spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with her now.
 
I do believe both to be well-meaning people. But one thing they and the rest of my Facebook friends are not is remotely representative of the types of people I spend my time with now.
 
For example, the wife is a Wellesley grad. And, yes, I married up. My guess is I’m not the only one whose Facebook network is not representative of who they are.
 
Now if my Twitter and LinkedIn networks—the ones I use professionally—were used to assess my credit worthiness, I think I’d do fine.
 
But Twitter and LinkedIn don’t have the patent in question. Facebook does. And I can only hope this is the last we ever hear of it.
 
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