Foursquare Becomes Great Predictor Of Divorce

Social apps are taking on new uses, with Twitter predicting movie box office success and now location sharing apps such as Foursquare potential predicting divorce. Information about pending divorces are of course of interest to lenders, and it’s actually Visa who’s using mobile social network data to predict such, so they know where to find you.

The gist is this: divorce leads to financial difficulties which leads to payments not being made. If a lender knows where to find you, it’s far easier to collect, right? The Daily Beast mentions that how credit card companies do this “is a closely guarded secret,” though we can speculate. In the same way that we’re profiled as consumers, our spending habits with credit cards help build a profile for “high risk of divorce”. Credit card companies already have profiles of what people tend to buy when married and what they start buying when divorced. They want to prevent a situation where you start missing payments.

If you’re one of the growing number of people who use mobile location sharing apps such as Foursquare, Loopt Pulse, Stuck, MyTown and literally dozens more, there’s a pattern profile of your common haunts, when you visit, how often, and so on. If you’re checking in to places a married person might not normally, even if you pay cash, you’ve left a trail. Some location sharing apps such as Foursquare have a public API, meaning that any developer with the right skills can build another application to study anyone’s public check-in patterns. E.g., visiting “boring” places that sell household/ garden-related items shows a sort of commitment to marriage. Tools like Loopt Pulse are used for location-planning before the fact, but can also help add to a consumer profile.

What’s done with this sort of profile data? Credit card companies could use the data as a preemptive measure and offer high-risk consumers a discount on money owed, then close out their account. Of course, there are a multitude of ways this type of profile could be used. Kind of makes you wonder if we’re coming closer to a reality such as that in the film Minority Report — based on a play by science fiction legend Philip K Dick — where the authorities can predict crimes before they happen and arrest you.

Do you use location-sharing apps? Do you worry that someone somewhere is building a consumer profile of you based on your check-ins or browsing of places to visit? Do you turn on privacy settings?

Image: Ed Yourdon.