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Startup Offers Landlords Continuous, Deep Surveillance Of Tenants' Social Media

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Here's Source Assured's pitch: landlords, if you write a requirement for tenants (and prospective tenants) to let us access their social media accounts into your lease/application process, we'll scrape all that data, use an unaccountable system to analyze it, and produce libelous, life-destroying dossiers on them that you can use to discriminate against people who seek shelter, the most fundamental human need after sustenance.

http://boingboing.net/2016/06/09/uk-startup-offers-landlords-co.html

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This was promoted on Property118 recently, here is some of what they had to say about it:

Mandy Thomson 27/05/2016 at 10:48

The concept behind sentiment reading (of text) isn’t new. Several companies and developers have come up with software that analyzes the emotion of the writer of any kind of web article or uploaded text.

There’s a good example here: http://www.meaningcloud.com/demo# You can try it by copying and pasting any text and clicking “send”.

As for the data protection question, as this is simply analyzing something that is already in the public domain, I don’t understand how consent is required. Anyone can take anything published online and analyze it as I’ve indicated above, without knowing the first thing about the writer of the statement, let alone getting their permission.

I agree that the internet is a really valuable tool to check out potential tenants, employees, dates etc but only as an adjunct to traditional methods and due diligence.

When I was recently looking for a new tenant, I found that, contrary to popular belief, not everyone is on social media, and most certainly not every social media site.

I would be interested to know if the tool mentioned can cross check across the internet for a given individual and pull posts/articles they might have published on more obscure sites? If it can, then it’s clearly adding something unique and valuable, but if it’s simply reading given texts for certain keywords, characters, phrases etc, you can do that yourself very easily for free.

Stuart 27/05/2016 at 10:52

Interesting…

Without permission you can “profile” already using FB EdgeRank/Open Graph.

As well as more traditional ways to “screen” potential tenants, forward thinking landlords can utilise FB algo’s and profile future tenants using a plethre of demographic targeting options.

Facebook deliberately restricts the reach and exposure your “free” posts generate they’re now a pay to play platform (as they want to encourage you to pay for a greater reach with “boost posts” and “FB ads” to expand their considerable coffers)

One way that has worked for me personally since “profiling” this way is to utilise FB Ads to send potential tenants to a landing page advertising my property(s) thus drastically reducing my due diligence process.

On your landing page you can then expand on your property features, management, market other properties in same area etc whatever you want.

One of the massive pluses on this is that you can then use FB retargetting pixel to build a virtual list of people who you know are interested in a certain property and are looking to rent in that area. So next time you have a tenant moving out you can then re-market to this list in advance and drastically reduce the lead cost or CPA.

Continue to add people into your rental funnel using this process and you have a ready made list of potential renters you can put your add in front of.

Using specific demographics like radius of where your house, working, age, sex, earnings per year, no children, credit card etc can really target down your ideal avatar and take a lot of the risk out of finding new tenants simple-smile.png

Im NOT suggesting this is to replace your normal due diligence process but assist. One to One chats are still compulsory in my screening process but the above method does eliminate a large % of the time wasters and potential tenants that would not be a good fit.

Michael Barnes 28/05/2016 at 23:22

Reply to the comment left by “Mandy Thomson” at “27/05/2016 – 10:48“:

I’m with you on the data protection issue.

(Emphasis added.)

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This is what people farming is all about.

It's not just a simple case of getting hold of any old herd and letting it provide for you, there's a whole world of animal husbandry that needs to be considered.

You need to select your stock carefully, look for the best and most consistent yielders, specifically those with plenty of years of solid provision left in them. Then you need to take full control over breeding, recuperation time, and be ready to cull off any of your herd that display signs of weakness, potential drops in provision, or behaviour that you don't want to spread.

People farming is a tough business, and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind live off the back of the labour of others.

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OK if I am going to rent in the future, I am going to have to pretend that I don't drink, smoke, have parties at the house, own a BMW, work full time, go on many holidays abroad, and buy lots of stuff on credit and be a good little consumer, and pay all my rent on time.

What a AAA tenant I will be!

They'll even have a whole industry around it. Like the credit rating, you'll have a civilian rating...

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/06/09/creepy-startup-will-help-landlords-employers-and-online-dates-strip-mine-intimate-data-from-your-facebook-page/

Its first product, Tenant Assured, is already live: After your would-be landlord sends you a request through the service, you’re required to grant it full access to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram profiles. From there, Tenant Assured scrapes your site activity, including entire conversation threads and private messages; runs it through natural language processing and other analytic software; and finally, spits out a report that catalogues everything from your personality to your “financial stress level.”

“If you’re living a normal life,” Thornhill reassures me, “then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about.”

Whats normal?

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I think I could start up a company that CLEANS UP and TURBO CHARGES your social media, ready for new jobs and the privilege of being able to rent.

I could superimpose you on a beach in the Caribbean, have you dinning with the Blairs, etc.

£250 fee. I'll be quids in!

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Or how about doing a similar thing with LLs social media data as you don't want a LL who's always living it up with parties and wild holidays in far-flung places in the world....you want one who is on hand to provide running repairs as needed etc and the same for letting agents too while we're at it. :)

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I might have to make some sort of scraper to check out the LR, companies house and any other available info for tenants, so that they can easier negotiate on rents.

Is your landlord taking lots of holidays? Driving a new car? Maybe they are charging too much in rent.

Have they paid all their taxes?

Oh and of course, how long since the advert first appeared and a free voids v rent reduction working, in crayon of course.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/06/09/creepy-startup-will-help-landlords-employers-and-online-dates-strip-mine-intimate-data-from-your-facebook-page/

Its first product, Tenant Assured, is already live: After your would-be landlord sends you a request through the service, you’re required to grant it full access to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram profiles. From there, Tenant Assured scrapes your site activity, including entire conversation threads and private messages; runs it through natural language processing and other analytic software; and finally, spits out a report that catalogues everything from your personality to your “financial stress level.”

“If you’re living a normal life,” Thornhill reassures me, “then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about.”

Whats normal?

Access to private messages?

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/06/09/creepy-startup-will-help-landlords-employers-and-online-dates-strip-mine-intimate-data-from-your-facebook-page/

Its first product, Tenant Assured, is already live: After your would-be landlord sends you a request through the service, you’re required to grant it full access to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram profiles. From there, Tenant Assured scrapes your site activity, including entire conversation threads and private messages; runs it through natural language processing and other analytic software; and finally, spits out a report that catalogues everything from your personality to your “financial stress level.”

“If you’re living a normal life,” Thornhill reassures me, “then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about.”

Whats normal?

Apparently not daring to have children if you're only a lowly renter:

My personal tenant report includes a list of my closest friends and interests, a percentage breakdown of my personality traits, a list of every time I’ve tweeted the words “loan” and “pregnant,” and the algorithm’s confidence that I’ll pay my rent consistently.

[. . .]

(“All we can do is give them the information,” Thornhill said. “It’s up to landlords to do the right thing.”)

Software for sociopaths. Scum just doesn't even cut it any more.

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Words fail me on this one. I'm not a landlord, but even if I was, I wouldn't dream of making my (prospective) tenants agree to something like this. In fact, I'd fully expect them to punch my lights out for even asking!

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Words fail me on this one. I'm not a landlord, but even if I was, I wouldn't dream of making my (prospective) tenants agree to something like this. In fact, I'd fully expect them to punch my lights out for even asking!

Hmmm...the horrible thing is that they could sneak something like this through without folks realising what they are doing, eg 'You agree to a credit and 'tenant suitability' check' . It's only somewhere down deep in the small print three pages later that they disclose exactly what that 'tenant suitability check' is.

They'd get sod all on me though, no twitter account, no instagram account, and the last time I even looked at my fb page was about 2 years ago let alone post anything about my personal life.

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This startup is being discussed over on Slashdot

I found a couple of very relevant comments:

  • The company's website is full of 'Lorem Ipsum' placeholder text. It's a sure sign of a quickly-thrown together website, and hardly inspires confidence about the company.
  • If this company are going to credit rate tenants, they need to be registered with the FSA. Which they aren't (a poster checked it).

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Apart from the obviously disgusting nature of this whole concept, you might well be a few hundred quid down in agents fees before you even get a sniff of this kind of permission being a requirement. What do you do then?

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I like to know what my tenants are up to, simply for my peace of mind. That's why I just hack their emails, innit.

Also, this made me laugh very much.

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Love it, there are, in all, 2 comments, one says "shameful and weird", the other, "This is absolutely revolting". I know you can read, it's in case you didn't click.

There was a thread that touched upon all this a while back. Now it's come up again it has reminded me of my recent lease negotiations. LL's person decided to joing the Landlords' Association and sent us their standard tenancy agreement as a replacement for our - I now realise - wonderfully nuts and bolts old lease (come back, come back, how I miss you)*. The LA doc was full of ridiculous obligations for the tenant, e.g. to forward post and keep the lawn free of weeds (impossible in gorgeous, shady, mossy little garden, not that that was my problem with it). Much of it didn't apply to us - no agent, e.g., so we got that taken out, other stuff - the 'we just in general reserve the right to take your money' clauses - we managed to partially get rid of and put down our objections to the rest, some things we had to let slide. Anyway, point being for this thread that the LA concludes its shitlist with a clause 8, which begins:

8.1 The Tenant hereby consents to the Landlord, the Agent and/or the National Landlords Association processing any information or personal details on or of the Tenant as defined in the Data Protection Act 1998.

I said no to this but I think a lot of tenants will just sign it because it won't occur to them that they can negotiate. Seriously - some scuzzy little letting agent and the effing Landlords' expletive Association can process ANY information or personal details? What the feck do they have to do with me? Credit check, come the day I have to let a letting agent into my life (shudder), ok, but apart from that, no way jose. I'll live under a hedge before I sign something like that I tell you that right now for nothing. Surely one day we will rise up.

*edit - not exaggerating, old lease in total 4 pages, new one was originally 13, both about the same in terms of spacing and gappiness.

Edited by North London Rent Girl

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