Cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky has released its latest report, Social Credits and Security: Embracing the World of Ratings, and uncovered that 12% of South African consumers surveyed have experienced issues accessing financial services because of an assessment of their social media information by scoring systems.
While such social scoring systems have become more widespread and are already implemented in many countries and industry sectors, their creation requires more attention, as they may lead to negative consequences.
Nearly all of the services used online for almost every aspect of people’s life – from social networks to bank accounts – are data-driven to make people’s lives easier.
With personal information, including social media activity, organisations can offer their current and potential customers customised services and provide a more seamless experience.
However, such behavioural assessment also leads to social credit scorings based on automated algorithms that may impact our personal lives. Consumers have shared examples of such experiences within Kaspersky’s report “Social Credits and Security: Embracing the World of Ratings”.
According to the findings, 12% of consumers have experienced issues in getting loans or mortgages because of information collected about them from their social media account, with 25-34 year-olds (15%) that most rely on these services, being the most affected. While there are existing and well-known regulations for credit scoring based on financial behaviour, there is no framework people are publicly aware of when it comes to the systems that collect personal information from our online profiles.
Kaspersky’s report suggest that people are ready to share sensitive private data to secure better rates and discounts, and to receive special services. At the same time, a significant number of consumers remain vigilant with how they use social media, and some may not consider letting organisations peek into their personal lives. For instance, nearly half (45%) of respondents said they would not share their profile just so they could fast track through credit card background checks. A slightly lower percentage group is not comfortable with sharing this kind of personal information in order to secure a place in a top school for a child (32%) or a better flat for rent (24%).
“In today’s digital world a social scoring system will soon grow more widespread, becoming not just a choice but an integral part of multiple services. However, the Kaspersky global survey highlights that there is a significant number of those who don’t want to share their private information in order to secure any deals. Their opinion cannot be ignored, and as developers create AI algorithms into social ratings, the interests of all should be considered, as well as questions of trust and transparency should be addressed,” said Marco Preuss, director, Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis Team in Europe.
While businesses try to benefit from technology and consumer data in new ways, consumers are also considering which organisations can be trusted with their data – as the cyberthreat landscape continues to widen and protecting personal data can be a big challenge. Kaspersky has found that consumers are relying more on medical operators, banks or insurance companies in questions of their data, rather than governments. Thus, only 21% of respondents said they do not trust these companies or services to store their personal data, while just over half (56%) of consumers say they do not trust the government.
Professor Chengyi Lin, Affiliate Professor of Strategy at INSEAD, commented that: “The main objective of a social scoring system is to measure and improve trust – in both the digital and physical worlds. At the same time, the system will require trust from the public to function.” Lin said depending on the economic, social and cultural context, the level of overall trust, trust in various entities and trust in the digital world vary country by country.
Therefore, the decision on whether to design and implement a social scoring system, at least in the short term, is likely to reside with each country. Beyond the obvious concerns on data privacy and security, the decision needs to carefully consider what trade-offs that society is willing to make, who the society is willing to entrust to design and operate the system, and how the system will be implemented and governed,” he said.
While sharing personal information online Kaspersky advises consumers to take the following steps to protect their privacy:
- Be conscious of what personal information you share online and who has access to your personal accounts. You can use Kaspersky’s Privacy Check service to explore how to change the privacy settings for your online services to take control of your personal data
- Sharing behaviour has its benefits but only with the right services. An online survey may give you a discount off your favorite brand, but this may lead to a company learning more than you wanted them to know. Remain vigilant about your online activities
- Use a reliable security solution for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect online privacy. For instance, the Do Not Track feature prevents the loading of tracking elements that monitor your actions on websites and collect information about you