Score Assured Allows Landlords to Creep on their Tenants on Social Media

Tenant Assured
As if living in rented accommodation wasn't enough of a struggle already, a UK tech startup has decided to try and make the experience even more uncomfortable. The claim is that they will mine the social media data of potential tenants and then relay that information back to landlords. The idea was, allegedly, to streamline an already competitive market, and make life easier for renters, but the public response to this policy has been overwhelmingly negative.

Here's how it works: the landlords use a program called Tenant Assured to look for potential tenants, they then send them a profile request, prompting the tenant to authorise a data scan of one or several of their social media profiles. This data is pulled from both public and private data, up to and including private messages. From this, Score Assured can supposedly measure parameters like 'financial stress levels' and other indicators of how good of a tenant you'll be.

This is, of course, completely optional. You can still use the service without allowing the check, but if you were to do so, it might look like you're holding back because you've got something to hide. The idea has been touted as a workaround for the fact that many millennials don't have a credit score, but the flaw in that argument is that credit scores leave little to no room for interpretation, they are either good or bad, whereas data gleaned from keyword scraping across various posts and messages will not only be open to interpretation, but also prejudice.

It would be unfair to suggest that landlords aren't reasonable people. Some of them are, and others take advantage of the crowded market by wielding their power over tenants without so much of a hint of fairness, there's no rule of thumb or measurable proportion between the two. Suppose though that some landlords decide to make the social media background check a mandatory requirement for all respective tenants, all of a sudden the whole system grows several shades uglier.

Having a personal relationship with tenants is important, to some degree, but 'personal' is one thing and 'invasive' is quite another. This strikes me as another example of social media becoming the enemy of trust. Sensitive information suddenly exists somewhere other than inside the person's head, and that makes some people feel like they are entitled to it.

The Consumer Protection Act assures that Score Assured will never actually be able to make the report mandatory, and there's even talk of them reworking their business model a bit in the wake of all this negative press, but it's still a frightening indicator of the disparity between freedom of information and this new brand of motive-laden stalking.

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