SAN FRANCISCO – 10-29-2018 (PRDistribution.com) — In 2012, Huffington Post stated, “As good as Google is at providing information, it should not be allowed to conduct business as usual. It must be regulated, just as the phone companies and credit bureaus are regulated. Fundamental civil liberties issues are at stake.”
Everyone is Googling everyone. It’s so common that even dates are Googling potential partners before deciding if they’re worth a second date! We now live in a world where you are what the internet says you are – even if you didn’t post it.Imagine if credit companies were entirely unregulated, that the old Saks credit card could carry incorrect information without the chance to dispute it. In the credit industry, you can take your dispute directly to credit rating companies like Equifax, who gives the other side 30 days to confirm the validity of the claim or they remove it. You can directly present the credit rating company your evidence on any disputed item and they will investigate it. Additionally, credit companies are only allowed to keep certain information for a limited number of years.That is not to say that Google is not one of the best creations of the century – it is. It would be hard to imagine a world without it, and it is an invaluable asset to modern life. However, there are no guidelines of what to do when the information in their searches is inaccurate, no explanation for why their algorithms seem to work in certain ways, why one search in India yields different results than the same search in the United States. There are a lot of frustrating kinks and mysteries, but there’s no denying that we all love and need Google.However, just like everyday people, lenders are now doing Google research. There is nowhere in the lending industry that says they can deny a loan based on a Google search – but they are. In fact, lenders might even create technical defaults – these are based on some innocuous part of your mortgage agreement that you might not have read but can still be used when lenders feel nervous for any reason. In the old days, they called these clauses the “sweaty palms clauses,” as lenders could invoke them if they got nervous about your repayment for any possible reason. They did not have to wait for you to miss a mortgage payment to accelerate your loan. Now, they can do that based on Google results, just as subjectively.Let’s take a closer look at lender rules:Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), “a creditor may not discriminate against an applicant based on the applicant’s race, color, or national origin ‘with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction.’” (15 U.S.C. § 1691)But the ECOA does not prohibit discrimination based on Google findings. This means that lenders are now rejecting your loan, despite an almost perfect credit score, because of what they read on Google.In the old days when credit scores were king, we all knew that paying on time could keep us in good standing. After all, that was the surest measure of your likelihood to perform on any loan. But now, lenders have added a much more difficult hurdle – the internet – so you can forget your 760 FICO score. Previously, creditors had to send you a letter explaining why your loan was rejected, and it usually had to do with your credit score. Now, the letter simply states “DENIED.” One simple yet ambiguous word is now affecting so many who aren’t even sure where to go from there.Lenders have now relied on Google to decide the fate of your loan, though not everything they find is relevant to your ability to repay. You cannot take your fight to Google, as there are no procedures or regulations on how to challenge incorrect articles. Yet it quickly becomes a problem for the victim of these uncorrected lies, whose lenders, friends, and relationships have been influenced by these search results. But unlike credit companies which would recognize the dangers in allowing such errors, Google is not required to monitor or make corrections; instead, they prefer that you contact the actual hosts of incorrect information, even if some are impossible to find or no longer exist.The power of the Internet to impact your business and livelihood is unprecedented. There is, of course, room for the internet and tech companies in changing the way we do business. However, there was a reason that, as a society, that we held credit companies accountable; in the same way, search engines should be held accountable when misleading information on their sites can affect your business, livelihood, employment, and quality of life.
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