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A SCHUFA Snafu

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What does your circle of friends say about your creditworthiness? That question has been the subject of heated discussion among German politicians, data protection activists and media commentators who were recently fuming over a plan by the country’s largest credit agency, SCHUFA, to mine social networking sites for information to determine an individual’s ability and willingness to pay their bills.

According to German broadcaster NDR Info, the agency planned to scour Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites using Google-like crawlers to snatch information. “The goal of the project is to analyze and research web data,” according to SCHUFA, which says it would only look at data that is publicly available.

Still, the suggestion of mining social sites for creditworthiness set off a firestorm of reactions: One story reported that some social media enthusiasts began seeking to auction off rich Facebook friends to the highest bidder to boost credit ratings. German politicians struck a more furious tone. One charged, “SCHUFA and other credit agencies should disclose their full intentions.” Another noted, “SCHUFA cannot become the Big Brother of the business world.”

The consumer has more control here than most are acknowledging. Ultimately, social media users decide what information is posted on these sites.

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