What kind of person are you? Let’s check your digital rating.


It’s closer than you think. Three years ago, Facebook patented a credit rating system to evaluate and mesh the financial histories of your friends with your own. E-scores are now widely used to target financial offers that “may be of interest to you.” We’ve known for a while now that our digital activities are continually being trawled to target messaging to us with fairly startling precision. Ah, the tyranny of algorithms. There’s no escaping what your online persona tells the world—where every click has meaning and every scroll has purpose (and every phone knows your location).

Such systems are potentially omniscient and their analysis has moved beyond human logic. And they bring us that much closer to a comprehensive social identity. The Chinese dictator-in-the-making boasts that his system is already in place. Xi Jinping’s value proposition to his people: To allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.

A Chinese company connected to online retailer Alibaba has developed what resembles a credit score but is oh-so-much-more. With a secret algorithm, on a scale of 350 to 950, you’re rated on payment history—and interpersonal relationships, what you purchase (video games are a minus)—and more. High scores mean you can rent a car without a deposit and will receive prominent placement on dating sites. Low scores mean life is hard.

Never in America, right?

Our credit reports are already mixing it up with job applications. The internet of things (IoT), phones and debit cards have created a huge data trail that paints a picture of our lives, honest and true, for all to see. Insurers have replaced collective risk pools with tightly focused, behavioral models. From our online activities (Amazon) to how fast we drive (Waze) to our personal fitness (Apple), we add to our portraits every day. Those who don’t score well will simply pay more. Jeff Bezos has said that “we are our choices.”

Three years ago, I was offered a $300 discount by my car insurance if I passed their “safe drivers” challenge. How hard could that be? They would send me a tracker to place in my (ruby red) Mustang for one month. OK. A little more challenging, but still, $300.

After seven days I received an email to return the tracker. I never received that discount. From the tone of the letter I was just relieved my insurance wasn’t canceled.

Apartment owners and operators, as both data hunters and data gatherers, will have interesting choices to make in the years ahead. Inaction will also be a choice with its own consequences.