German agency to analyse personal Facebook accounts

08.06.2012 - 12:15

The leading German credit agency SCHUFA, plans to mine Facebook and other social networking sites in search of information that could be related with a person's creditworthiness. Several leading politicians have criticized the plan.

The German broadcaster NDR reported that Facebook data can help the credit agency to study a person's relationships in determining how that might affect their ability to pay their bills. also plans to analyse information from other sites like the professional networks Xing and LinkedIn, Twitter, a personal search engine called Yasni, and Google Street View.

The German Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, condemned this action in the Spiegel Online. “It cannot be that Facebook friends and preferences lead to one, for example, not being able to get a cell phone contract”, she said, “SCHUFA and other credit agencies should disclose their full intentions of using Facebook data to check creditworthiness.”

Also, Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner told the Munich Merkur newspaper that SCHUFA can not become the Big Brother of the business world and that “social networks should not be systematically mined for sensitive data that would influence the credit ratings of clients.” The Pirates Party criticised the new project too, calling it an "attack on the right of people to control their own information".

SCHUFA has collected data on more than 66 million consumers in Germany and most of the information as come from partners like banks, insurances agencies, and businesses. By using “crawling techniques”, like those used by Google, the agency will determine the current opinions of a person and find the addresses or “changed addresses.”

 The agency defended itself saying that its three-year project, launched on 5 June in collaboration with a leading German IT institute, the Hasso-Plattner Institute (HPI), fully respects internet privacy laws. “The goal of the project is to analyse and research web data”, it said.