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Social scoring: Could that Facebook post stop you getting a loan or a mortgage?

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An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger.
An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jenny Kane
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That picture you posted online looking the worse for wear after a night out might make you smile, but it may make it a lot more difficult for you to access financial and public services as businesses and governments increasingly score you on you social media activity, a new report has warned.

So-called social scoring systems are increasingly being deployed by businesses and governments to determine the trustworthiness of customers and citizens.

The concept is similar to credit ratings which helps determine a person's ability to repay debt and is already having an impact.

Almost a third — 32 per cent — of 25 to 34-year-olds have experienced issues getting a mortgage or loan as a result of their activity on social media, cybersecurity experts at Kaspersky revealed on Wednesday.

Their survey of more than 10,000 people from 21 countries also found that 18 per cent of people globally have had issues accessing financial services because of an assessment of their social media information.

China is currently developing a social credit system to rate its more than 1 billion citizens while insurers in New York are now officially allowed to determine premiums by analysing data from social media.

"What we think is going to happen in the future is, you're gonna have a holistic view of your behaviours, both financial and digital, and even physical, to give you a single credit score," Chengyi Lin, a professor of strategy at the INSEAD business school, explained.

According to Kaspersky, more than 4.5 billion people now use the internet around the world, and 3.8 billion have social media accounts providing governments and companies with thousands of data points to score people.

"Based on these scores, systems make decisions for us or about us, from travel destinations and the associated costs, to whether we are allowed to access the service itself," the report states.

However, fewer than half of those surveyed had ever heard of social scoring. The percentage of those who have heard of it is higher in Asian countries, with 71 per cent in China, while it is at its lowest — 13 per cent — in Austria and Germany.

But knowing you are being scored on your online and in particular social media activity doesn't mean you understand how it works.

Nearly half of respondents — 45 per cent — said they have experienced issues in understanding how a social credit system works.

Still, the survey found that 67 per cent of us would share our profiles to secure online shopping discounts, with 52 per cent prepared to do this to fast track through travel security.

A majority — 51 per cent — is also happy with the government monitoring their social media activity to keep citizens safe.

But Kaspersky stressed that "personal data is valuable and it should be traded with extreme caution", warning that regulations have not yet caught up.

"It's important to note that while financial credit scoring is somewhat regulated, there is no framework we are publicly aware of when it comes to other systems used by organisations and governments to collect our data," it said.

"Consumers can find it impossible to find out what their scores are, how these scores are being calculated and how they can be corrected if there are inaccuracies," it added.

It urged people to "think twice before sharing your personal information online in case it could be misinterpreted or even used against you."