Keeping Score: Companies Use Data to Rate You


It is well documented that big tech companies are collecting a treasure trove of data about our interests and behaviors through our phones, computers, cars, and all the other "smart" devices we now use. While we often agree to give away data as a condition of using these services and devices, we don't always understand the extent to which that data is used. The latest warning about data mining comes in an op-ed that describes how companies, government agencies, employers and landlords are now using "surveillance scores" to rate what kind of customer/employee/renter we will be.

Bruce McClary with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling says this type of surveillance goes beyond the traditional credit score that has been kept on Americans for decades. "This data is being used to create risk scores...that's what a lot of these businesses and services are using to see if they're willing to extend you lines of credit, or do business in other types of ways," he says. "They're looking at your zip code, your activities, your behavior, businesses that you frequent, locations you visit."

McClary tells KTRH that data collection is common not just for determining credit scores, but for improving products and services, which is why there are legitimate reasons for many people voluntarily agreeing to it. "The troublesome part about use of data is where it is used to make judgments about an individual," he says. "And if it is done behind the scenes and not in a transparent way, that is even more concerning."

Regardless of how your data is being collected or used, you still have the right to assert yourself if you feel it is being done improperly. "If someone tells you that they can't do business with you because of a score, ask them what score they used, ask them what details were used in the scoring model," says McClary. "And then push back...if the score says no, you still have a chance to negotiate for a yes in many situations."

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