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Math The Almighty Buck Science

Judging You By the Online Company You Keep 117

theodp writes "Network analysis uses data about your social network interactions to make assumptions and predictions about your behavior. The Economist notes the upside for companies looking to sell products. But don't forget about the downside, warns Adrian Chen, of living in a world where network analysis is used by financial firms to determine risky borrowers by looking at social ties, or by Internet businesses to determine which customers are more equal than others (nice to see Microsoft's back on the forefront of some tech!). So, did Mom envision Social Network Analytics when she gave you that you-are-the-company-you-keep lecture?"
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Judging You By the Online Company You Keep

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  • Financial Meltdown (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:49AM (#33481134)

    There is nothing wrong about doing good due diligence before lending money. Maybe the economy would be in better shape if we had more of this going on.

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symes ( 835608 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:57AM (#33481174) Journal
    I always search for any prospective employee online these days. I'm not sure whether this is right or wrong - it's just I don't want some problem around the corner that could have been predicted. That said, I am yet to find anything of interest on anyone... suggesting that so long as you are sensible with your online presence then you're probably ok. I do think having a social network is a plus - but material such as "I torture animals", and "omg, my crack habit is way out of control" would probably weigh somewhat negatively. I think it is all a bit over-hyped - at the end of the day, if someone is good then a few over-the-top parties aren't going to make a big difference ont he employability front. As for insurers, I am surprised, acturaries are supposed to be switched on and I fail to see how a very selective subsample, the online community, can be used meaningfully in calculating risk.
  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @10:04AM (#33481198)
    More than that, it's cheap money and easy to get insurance that's caused a huge portion of the problem. Then when you include incentives to make a lot of loans and no penalty for making bad ones, it doesn't take a Nobel winning economist to see that something's going to go horribly, horribly awry eventually.
  • by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Sunday September 05, 2010 @10:33AM (#33481296) Homepage
    Okay, then I'll get a loan from a company with decent statisticians who recognize that your friends don't determine how safe a debtor you are.
    And if it turns out having friends with poor credit scores actually does indicate how safe you are (I really doubt it) then I'm all for that information being used appropriately.

    Knowing the true risk of default is never a bad thing, for either party. A lot of the problems we've had since 2008 could have been avoided with better risk analysis.
  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @10:44AM (#33481350)

    Statisticians for loan companies have no incentive to reduce the error rate once it's beneath a certain level, since the effort to refine the loan criteria costs more than the gain from not rejecting people who don't fit the bogus criteria. There might not even be any such gain at all if the bogus criteria are merely neutral--a company that rejects everyone whose name contains the letter 'Q' is never going to have a reason to stop doing that because while it doesn't help, it doesn't hurt the company either unless there are so many customers with 'Q' in their name that it reduces the total customer base below what they can handle.

    In fact, that's one of the major problems with companies gathering information on you--they have no incentive to reduce the error rate to zero, and even a few percent of error rate can lead to millions of false positives.

    1. Create multiple dummy accounts, all saying what a wonderful person you are, the next Mother Theresa, hard-working, modest to a fault, inherited $N million but refuse to touch the capital, and donate the interest to charity and PACs for the tax deductions (along with some thank-yous from fake bishops and pastors, and a few aids to influential politicians for your generous financial contributions), etc. - throw in a couple of "previous employers" who still keep in touch because they want you to go back to work for them.
    2. Let employers, banks, etc. do their searches.

    My point? Any system they can make can be gamed.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @10:49AM (#33481376)

    There is nothing wrong about doing good due diligence before lending money.

    Sure ... up to a point. And that point was passed when banks, lenders and businesses linked up nationwide to share information about their customers.

    The entire credit system in this country (and others I suppose, but I only know what goes on in the U.S.) serve only to insulate companies from what are the normal costs of doing business. That is its purpose: it is not there for your benefit, not there for mine. Prior to the rise of the credit bureaus, a business would deem a customer worthy by its own history with said customer, or maybe by asking the outfit next door. They did not do this by combing the complete financial histories of a potential customer, wherever he might be, wherever he might have lived. We get all gnarly when the government builds giant databases on us, keeps profiles on us, tracks us, and makes decisions about that information that affect us. Nobody seems too bothered about the credit bureaus, which is odd given that the average consumer has issues with them far more frequently than he does with government. The credit system has done nothing but screw consumers over, time and again, and the more money the people that run the financial system in this country squander, the more they use their pet monstrosity to milk even more money from the consumer.

    The Big Three wield tremendous power over us, power that no private sector organization should have. Of course, that applies to anyone or anything that likes to collect lots and lots of personal information and sell it. Face it, when you concentrate pretty much anything, it may have value to someone, but it invariably becomes dangerous to someone else.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @10:52AM (#33481380) Homepage

    "There is nothing wrong about doing good due diligence before lending money. "

    I don't believe that is what people are arguing against. The question is if it actually qualifies as due diligence. Would you really give an atta boy to your local bank when they refused to loan you money because you sometimes talk to that ne'er do well (in their eyes) Johnny down the street?

  • by chichilalescu ( 1647065 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:17AM (#33481492) Homepage Journal

    this is not interesting, it's stupid. a woman posting stuff like this would have problems too. I doubt the parent is telling the truth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:18AM (#33481496)

    I hear this type of rationalizing from the left, that they are somehow more open to people of various flavors.

    Then I see their portrayal of everyone from supporters of the tea party to conservative Christians, and wonder if left-leaning management wouldn't even entertain the idea of discriminating against said members.

    Sorry bub, the left are just as fucked up and flawed as anyone else.

  • by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:32AM (#33481556) Homepage
    If a company rejects anyone whose name contains the letter Q that company is going to lose out on a big chunk of potential profits.
  • by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:34AM (#33481560) Homepage

    Anybody asserting that Facebook is going to be the only thing that determines whether or not you get a loan has an agenda to push.

    What was that saying.. "Never blame malice when you can't rule out stupidity"?
    I think this might just be people getting too worked up looking for something to pin on Facebook, rather than a calculated agenda.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:38AM (#33481574)

    I don't think that many right-leaning managers would be able to hire somebody like him after seeing his Facebook profile. His blatant homosexuality would probably trigger the guilt those managers feel regarding their own repressed homosexuality, and they just wouldn't hire him, although skill-wise he was clearly the best candidate for the job. At least left-leaning managers tend to be more open to individualism among their employees.

    Left-leaning, right-leaning ... those are just words.

    What it comes down to is that you have no idea what prejudices a potential employer has. You can't, so it's always best to play things close to the vest. Matter of fact, that's good advice even after you're hired: just go to work, do your job well, and then go home to your private life. You're not being paid to express your inner self: you're being paid to do a job. Truth is, though, your average employer is not going to give a damn about your bizarro personal life, whether you like your asshole reamed by throbbing meaty cocks, that you're into hamster-stuffing, that you're a heavy-duty partier, or any of the myriad other oddball things people are into ... as long as you don't rub his or her face in it. Remember, that employer has to worry about how you are going to affect the other people who work for him or her, and will also be concerned about what his boss thinks about who he hires. Furthermore, no matter how valuable you may think you are, how much you believe an employer should overlook your particular peculiarities, in today's job market odds are he has another resume just as impressive as yours sitting on his desk, from someone who made a much better first impression.

    What's troubling a lot of job seekers nowadays is that they're finding out their online presence has already made that impression for them. Is that right or wrong? Well, your online presence is largely your own responsibility: you put it out there, and you can't really blame an interviewer for trying to find out all they can about a candidate. Keep in mind that resumes, job interviews, and for that matter Facebook pages provide only limited information to a potential employer. Thus, it behooves you, the candidate, to be very, very careful with your presentation. Think twice about what you post about yourself. It may very well come back to haunt you.

    Some people that feel they have the right to be free to express their true selves wherever they may be. To a great extent, that is true in the U.S. However, those same people often think they should be equally free of other people's opinions of them ... and that's just foolish. The law says that you cannot be discriminated against for certain attributes, true, but says nothing at all about most other things. Fact is, if you behave or appear too far outside the norm, you are going to limit your employability in most cases. A prospective employer doesn't have to tell you that it's your sexual preferences, your body modifications, your ink, your purple striped hair, the drunken photos of you on your Facebook page, or indeed anything that contributed to his decision to hire someone else. He just won't call you back for that second interview. Look, that's just the way it is, and denying it is like spittin' into the wind.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:43AM (#33481598) Homepage Journal

    Who says they're meant to shock? Within his social circles that could well be normal banter

    If you post things on facebook and the like your social circle is effectively 8000 miles in diameter.

  • No, it's the use of material that was for friends out of context that is sick.

    Ever said "I'm so mad at you right now I could kill you?" Did you actually kill them? No. Context is important.

    Ever tell a joke to someone that wouldn't be appropriate in mixed company? Ever curse?

    Ever discuss your personal demons on-line, either to get help, or to help someone else?

    What about making judgment include not just the postings, but the pictures? We talked about ageism in I.T. a week ago - how about sexism? It's kind of hard to make a point in a meeting when people are looking at your boobs or your legs or your ass, and not what you're writing on the white board, but this is a VERY common experience. Is someone going to be denied a job "because they'll just distract the guys?" (Don't laugh - one employer swore he would NEVER again hire a woman for that very reason. Illegal? Depends on how much money each side has for lawyers, and whether you were carrying a recorder at the time).

    People are still judged on their appearance - extending that to who their on-line friends are is stupid. It's the same school of "new new economy analytics" that gave us the "financial tools" to melt down the economy in the first place. Snake-oil.

  • "It would have nothing to do with "he's gay," and everything to do with "this guy has clearly never learned the difference between private and professional behaviors.""

    You're not on the clock 24 hours a day. What you do in your own time is your own business. As long as they act professional while on the job, unless they're doing something notoriously illegal outside the job, it's simply not the employers business.

    In other words, it's employers who need to learn the difference between private and professional behaviours.

    You should not be judged based on your gender, whether you have children living at home or not, marital status, skin colour, sexual preference, religion or lack thereof, mother tongue, ethnic background, physical appearance, handicap, or means to palliate a handicap, social status, financial state, or any other bogus "metric." As long as you are qualified to do the job, none of this matters, and employers should not be using this as part of their hiring criteria.

    Example: Employers try to find out if women have children living at home - this *might* cause them to take a day off to tend to a sick kid. Funny how it's not an issue with men, isn't it?

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @06:04PM (#33483790) Homepage Journal

    If they managed to ignore the rather obvious red flag that the couple didn't even gross as much as the loan payment, I fail to see why their friends not managing it either would make much difference.

    The financial crisis has/had little to do with consumers. The fraud was rampant through the system with a bunch of people knowingly playing musical chairs. They just happened to have a plan that made sure they would have a chair when the music stopped. As it turns out, there still weren't quite enough chairs, so they extorted enough to buy a few more from the very people they were foreclosing (through their taxes).

    No money disappeared in the economic meltdown, it all went into people's pockets. The problem is that a lot of people's money went into only a few pockets. The owners of those few pockets would appreciate it very much if you would blame your neighbors instead.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Sunday September 05, 2010 @06:45PM (#33484096)

    Essentially you are saying that the only way to not have personal life interfere with professional is to not have a personal life.

    Not at all, unless your personal life revolves solely around what you post on a Web page somewhere. What I'm saying is that, if you want to participate in social networking, take steps to make sure it doesn't interfere with your professional life. That might mean, for example, taking the very simple precaution of not using your real name on social networking sites. Take me, for instance. Do you think my real name is ScrewMaster? Sure, if someone really wants to know who I am, they can probably find out: I've been online for a long time. But here's the thing: if you know that people you'd rather not find you are trolling for you online, make it hard for them. Raise the bar. The average HR type isn't going to make a concerted effort to find you: he'll just cruise a couple of the major sites for your real name, and if he doesn't find anything, move on to the next thing.

    This is not rocket science people: you just have to learn to take a few precautions. Most folks don't, I admit, until after they've been caught flatfooted.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern